Conjunctivitis is one of the most common and treatable eye infections found among children and adults. It is an inflammation of conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid. A recent research has shown that like swine-flu, conjunctivitis is also spreading in many parts of the world.
"Conjunctivitis can be spread through hand contact when rubbing the eyes or touching contact lenses after touching infected genitals. Washing hands thoroughly can help prevent conjunctivitis. Being around a person who has conjunctivitis and wearing contact lenses may increase your risk of getting conjunctivitis," says eye specialist Anil Sharma of Westend Hospital.
According to Anil Sharma, the symptoms of conjunctivitis normally begin in one eye. However, after a few days, you will often find that the other eye gets affected too.
"Reddening of affected eyes: This happens as a result of irritation and widening of tiny blood vessels in your conjunctiva (thin layer of skin inside your eyelids). If your eyes are very red and very painful or if your vision is affected or if your eyes are extremely sensitive to light (photophobia), you should seek immediate medical assistance.
"Watering eyes: The conjunctiva contains thousands of cells that produce mucus and tiny glands that produce tears. Irritation causes the glands to become overactive so that they water more than usual.
"Sticky coating on eyelashes: You are more likely to notice this when you first wake up in the morning. Your eyelids may feel like they are stuck together because the pus that is produced by the infection forms into sticky clumps on your lashes.
"Enlarged lymph node in front of the ear: A lymph node is a part of the body's immune system and helps protect the body from bacteria and infection. You might feel an enlarged lymph node as a raised bump, underneath the skin.
"Pink eye (another name) can be caused by many of the bacteria and viruses responsible for colds and other infections - including ear infections, sinus infections and sore throats and by the same types of bacteria that cause sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) chlamydia and gonorrhea," says Gaurav Bajaj, an eye specialist from Kalkaji.
'Pink eye' can also be caused by allergens. These cases tend to happen more frequently among kids who also have other allergic conditions such as hay fever. Some triggers of allergic conjunctivitis include grass, ragweed pollen, animal dander and dust mites.
CURE AND PREVENTION
Treatment for Conjunctivitis: "There are various types of medication for the same disease as there are different types of infection", says Gaurav Bajaj.
The treatment of conjunctivitis depends on the type of infection:
Bacteria: Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic can be given as eye drops, ointments or pills. Eye drops or ointments may need to be applied to the inside of the eyelid three to four times a day for five to seven days. The infection should improve within a week. Take the medicine as instructed by your doctor, even if the symptoms go away.
Virus: Medicine cannot treat conjunctivitis caused by a virus. This type of conjunctivitis often results from a common cold. Just as a cold must run its course, so must this form of conjunctivitis, which will last from 4 to 7 days. You may, however, help relieve symptoms by applying a cold compress.
Irritating substance: To treat this type of conjunctivitis, use warm water for five minutes to wash the irritating substance from the eye. You should also avoid further exposure to the irritating substances. Your eyes should begin to improve within four hours after washing away the substance. If they do not, call your doctor.
Allergies: Allergy-associated conjunctivitis should be evaluated by your ophthalmologist and an allergist. It may disappear completely when the allergy is treated with anti-histamines or the when the allergen is removed.
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