Are There Different Kinds Of Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis, or the more common “pink eye”, may be a relatively common condition but it is one that we all dread. This is especially true for parents. It is so common in pre-school and elementary school children that it is expected to strike all young children at one time or another. Fortunately, the watery, swollen, pink (or even red) eyes look scarier than they usually are, provided that parents seek immediate medical attention. It is always a good idea during regular eye exams to ask your eye care professional about how to guard against conjunctivitis and what to do if you or your child does come in contact with it.
Conjunctivitis is the result of inflammation caused by some sort of irritation in the tissue that covers the part of the eye that is normally white. The blood vessels in this layer become dilated and this causes them to really stand out. The eye then becomes red or bloodshot and remains that way during the time it is infected.
Inflammation may be the first sign of an infection or irritation, but symptoms associated with conjunctivitis make up a long, uncomfortable list. They can include swelling, itching, burning, sensitivity to light, discharge, stuffy or runny nose and watery eyes.
Conjunctivitis is comprised of three main types: allergic, chemical and infectious. Each type is fairly self-descriptive. Someone can react to seasonal allergies or to a foreign object, like a contact lens, and that can manifest in an eye infection. Chemical implies a reaction to something like pollution in the air or chlorine swimming pool treatments. Infectious, which most of us worry the most about, also has three divisions. These are:
- Viral conjunctivitis – most common, often accompanying a cold virus. The tear ducts and nasal passages are connected which can allow a virus to move into the eyes from the respiratory system.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis – usually has origin in staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. This can be transmitted through the skin or respiratory system and can come with contact with someone or something contaminated.
- Ophthalmia neonatorum – newborn babiesare at risk for this serious form of bacterial conjunctivitis that is the result of exposure to chlamydia or gonorrhea during the birthing process. Without immediate treatment, can lead to irreparable eye damage. It has become standard practice in hospital delivery rooms to apply prophylactic ointment right after delivery.
Treatment can be fairly simple, but it must be based on which type of conjunctivitis the patient has and makes consultation with your healthcare professional essential. Viral infections often focus on comfort as they are allowed to simply run their course, keeping in mind the highly contagious nature of viruses. Bacterial conjunctivitis will need to be treated with a specific anti-bacterial agent, usually an ointment or drops, prescribed by your doctor. When caused by seasonal allergies, prevention is key and effects may be lessened by employing allergy medications and other strategies suggested by your allergist or medical professional.
It is important to not overlook the fact that, while common, conjunctivitis can actually be a symptom of an underlying health condition or other eye problem. The symptoms alone are not a reliable indicator because they may also be due to other eye infections, like blepharitis, dry eye or other condition that might potentially lead to serious problems, including permanent vision loss.
If you would like to learn more about treatments for conjunctivitis or any vision-related issue, Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is ready to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in our four convenient Long Island office locations. For more information, or if you have other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you, Bellmore, Great Neck, Little Neck or Huntington. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.