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  Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is the irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes which cover the eyes, known as the conjunctivae. Conjunctivae are also referred to as the ‘whites of the eyes’. Conjunctivitis also results in the irritation of the inner side of the eyelids. It usually affects eyes, starting with one and spreading to the other. It is highly contagious and spreads within one or two days. There are a variety of causes of conjunctivitis and treatment depends on the cause. This condition is very common, not serious, but is annoying and irritating. Another name for conjunctivitis is ‘pink eye’, due to the red irritation of the whites of the eyes and the eyelids.

Conjunctivitis Eye diseases
Conjunctivitis


Conjunctivitis is caused by five different factors. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Viral conjunctivitis is associated with a cold or the flue. This conjunctivitis spreads rapidly among contacts. Chlamydial conjunctivitis is the result of an organism called Chlamydia trachomatosis. This type of conjunctivitis is serious, can lead to blindness and is also known as trachoma. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by pollen, dust or cosmetics which cause a reaction in the patient. Reactive conjunctivitis is caused by a chemical or irritant reaction.

Symptoms

Conjunctivitis develops rapidly and can affect one or both eyes. The initial feeling is grittiness in the eye with a puss like discharge. The eyes and eyelids become red and irritated. The eyelids may be stuck together especially in the morning due to the drying discharge.

Viral conjunctivitis symptoms include the above, but also a watery discharge accompanied with cold symptoms. Viral conjunctivitis can also have symptoms of swollen lymph nodes around the ears or neck. This conjunctivitis can lead to an irritation of the cornea known as keratitis. It takes several weeks for this conjunctivitis to clear.

Chlamydial conjunctivitis can also involve the cornea as the eyelids turn inward and scratch the lens. There is a lot of swelling associated with this form of conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis involves intense itching, with a string discharge and intermittent redness. This type of conjunctivitis can have a ‘season’ that is based on the allergic reactions of the patient.

In infants conjunctivitis can be caused by a gonococcol or chlamydial infectin that is in the birth canal. This conjunctivitis is referred to as ophthalmia neonaturum. Swabs of ointment are always applied to newborns to prevent infection, whether it is present or not. Young babies can have blocked tear ducts, caused by a poor development of tear drainage canals. This is not a serious condition that usually clears up on its own.

Treatment

Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic drops that can kill a variety of bacteria. Ointment can also be used. The eyes should be cleaned regularly with sterile cotton clothes or cotton balls. Most bacterial conjunctivitis will cure on its own within five days- up to 65% of cases. Application of antibiotic ointment or drops however will cure the condition quickly and prevent recurrence.

Viral conjunctivitis has no treatment, but can be alleviated with imitation tears in the form of an ointment or drops. The virus must run its course and the condition will clear up on its own. Viral conjunctivitis is extremely contagious and hygiene is essential to prevent the spread or recurrence. In some cases the condition may last a long time and corticosteroid eye drops are prescribed. These drops need to be administered with the supervision of an ophthalmologist.

Chlamydia conjunctivitis is treated with chlorotetracycline ointment and tetracycline tablets that are antibiotics. This is to insure that a systemic treatment occurs for this condition. Children cannot take tetracycline and erythromycin is usually prescribed. Chlamydia is a venereal disease and any partners should be treated as well.

Conjunctivitis in infants is a serious condition. Ophthalmologists should examine any discharge from the eyes and any underlying conditions should be investigated and treated.

Allergic conjunctivitis is treated using antihistamine drops. Drops can be used to block the allergic response and used for weeks to maintain results. Corticosteroid drops can be used, but usages should be monitored by an ophthalmologist. Main treatment should focus on the source of the allergy and eliminating it from the patient’s environment.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually made by a physical exam by a general practitioner. The doctor will prescribe the proper treatment. If the condition does not improve then an exam by an eye specialist known as an ophthalmologist.

If symptoms do not get better, get worse or vision becomes impaired a repeat visit to the doctor should be made.

The best way to avoid conjunctivitis is to have good hygiene. Wash hands and face often and avoid rubbing the eyes. Do not share towels with others when conjunctivitis is diagnosed, it spreads easily.

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