The conjunctiva is a thin, clear membrane that covers the inside of your eyelid and the white part of your eye (known as the sclera). This tissue contains small blood vessels that secrete mucus, which helps lubricate the surface of the eye. When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed–whether from an infection or autoimmune reaction–blood vessels swell and make your eye appear red. Symptoms like this can indicate you are suffering from conjunctivitis.
Causes & Symptoms
The most common form of conjunctivitis is caused by a viral infection–the same that causes the common cold. Symptoms include eye inflammation and soreness, extensive tearing, sensitivity to light, itchiness, and blurred vision. These symptoms typically last for one to two weeks and resolve on their own. Viral conjunctivitis is very contagious, so if you suffer from the eye condition, you should wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, not share any eye cosmetics, and not reuse towels used on your face.
A bacterial infection can also cause a contagious form of conjunctivitis. This bacteria is typically spread through contact from an infected person or surface, or from a systemic infection. Bacterial conjunctivitis typically causes a significant amount of pus in the area. However, some versions of bacterial conjunctivitis may cause minimal discharge, aside from a crust forming on the eyelashes in the morning.
Another form of the eye condition is allergic conjunctivitis. This results from the body reacting to an allergen, such as pollen, dander, or other environmental factors. This eye reaction is not infectious. Common symptoms include puffy eyelids, itching or burning of the eyes, tearing, and enlarged blood vessels in the white part of the eye.
Treatment for Conjunctivitis
The specific treatment recommended for your conjunctivitis will vary based on the cause of your condition. If you have viral conjunctivitis, this will resolve on its own within a couple of weeks, but you can use a warm compress for relief from discomfort. Bacterial conjunctivitis requires using antibiotic eye drops for approximately one to two weeks. Allergic conjunctivitis typically responds best to oral and topical antihistamines. For more severe cases, you may need steroids and to use cool compresses.
Despite the type of conjunctivitis from which you are suffering, the condition is typically easy to treat. If you don’t see improvement for an extended period of time, you should visit your eye doctor to ensure you do not have a more serious eye condition.
Contact Virginia Eye Consultants
To learn more about the different types and treatments for conjunctivitis, please contact us to set up your next appointment.
The Doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.