Conjunctivitis, also referred to as pinkeye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the transparent membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the whites of the eyes). It can be triggered by allergies, by contact with irritating chemicals, or by infections with either a virus or bacteria.
Viral conjunctivitis often is caused by one of the adenoviruses, a family of viruses that usually causes colds (upper respiratory illnesses). They infect fluids in the eyes, mouth and nose, and can spread from person to person on hands and in the droplets of coughs and sneezes. Adenoviruses usually cause only a mild case of conjunctivitis. However, they are capable of causing more serious complications such as clouding the cornea and interfere with vision.
Bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by several different types of bacteria. Most of the bacterial infections spread through contact with hands that have been contaminated with the bacteria.
Your doctor may suggest non-prescription eye drops for viral conjunctivitis. They relieve eye symptoms while your body fights off the viral infection. For bacterial conjunctivitis, you'll need prescription ointment or eye drops containing antibiotics. The course of ointment must be completed even if your symptoms clear up within a day or two.
There are some strategies that can help you take care of pinkeye conjunctivitis at home. Warm compresses, such a washcloth, to your eyes for 20- to 30-minute periods, several times a day. Gently wipe away eye discharge and dry, crusty material with a clean, moist cotton ball or tissue.
For you are diagnosed with allergic conjunctivitis, antihistamine eye drops and cool compresses can help to relieve itching. Newborns with gonorrhoeal or chlamydial conjunctivitis are treated with antibiotics. Their mothers should be examined and treated for gonorrhea or chlamydia infections.
Most cases of uncomplicated viral or bacterial conjunctivitis get better without causing permanent eye damage.
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