by Michelle Badash, MS
Conjunctivitis is swelling and irritation in the eye. It affects the tissue that covers the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid. This tissue is called conjunctiva.
There are many causes of conjunctivitis including:
Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your risk of conjunctivitis include:
Conjunctivitis will usually clear up within 2-14 days. If conjunctivitis is caused by a seasonal allergy, it may continue throughout the season. If it is caused by a non-seasonal allergy, it may continue to occur year round.
Note: These symptoms can sometimes indicate a more serious medical problem. If you develop these or any other symptoms, see your doctor.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. The doctor will examine your eye. If there is discharge from your eye, it may be tested. The discharge will help find the cause of the conjunctivitis.
If you wear contacts, avoid wearing contact lenses until the conjunctivitis has cleared.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the conjunctivitis:
Antibiotic eye drops and/or ointment may be prescribed. These drops will help shorten the course of the infection. It will also decrease the amount of time it is contagious. Wipe away any discharge with a clean cotton ball before using the drops.
There is no medicine to cure a viral infection. To help relieve discomfort consider:
Allergic or Chemical Irritation
Avoid the cause of the irritation (eg, smoke, pollen, make-up). Apply cool compresses to the affected area. Your doctor may prescribe allergy eye drops to help relieve allergic conjunctivitis.
To Prevent Further Spread of Infection
If you have a bacterial or viral infection, follow these steps to prevent the spread of infection:
If you are diagnosed with conjunctivitis, follow your doctor's instructions.
To decrease your chance of conjunctivitis:
Your doctor may recommend other prevention methods, depending on the cause.
American Optometric Association
Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Infectious conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed November 6, 2012.
Conjunctivitis. American Academy of Pediatrics Health Children website. Available at: http://www.healthy... . Updated May 26, 2011. Accessed November 6, 2012.
Viral conjunctivitis. Review of Optometry. 2001.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 11/26/2012