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Alternative namesInflammation - conjunctiva; Pink eye
DefinitionConjunctivitis is inflammation or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids ( conjunctiva ).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The conjunctiva is exposed to bacteria and other irritants. Tears help protect the conjunctiva by diluting bacteria and washing it away. Tears also contain enzymes and antibodies which kill bacteria.
"Pink eye" refers to a viral infection of the conjunctiva. These infections are especially contagious among children. Handwashing is key to preventing the spread of the virus, which is similar to the type which cause the common cold.
Bacteria are an uncommon cause of conjunctivitis. Many physicians give a mild antibiotic eyedrop for pink eye to prevent bacterial conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is also caused by allergies ( allergic conjunctivitis ), chemical exposure, and certain systemic diseases.
Signs and tests
TreatmentTreatment of conjunctivitis depends upon the cause.
Allergic conjunctivitis may respond to treatment for underlying allergies, or it may disappear on its own when the allergen that caused it is removed. Cool compresses may be soothing for allergic conjunctivitis.
Antibiotic medication, usually eye drops, is effective for bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis will disappear on its own. The discomfort with viral or bacterial conjunctivitis can be soothed by applying warm compresses (a clean cloth soaked in warm water) to closed eyes.
Expectations (prognosis)The outcome is usually good with treatment.
ComplicationsReinfection within a household or school may occur if preventive measures are not followed.
Calling your health care providerCall for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms persist longer than 3 or 4 days.
PreventionGood hygiene can help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis:
Update Date: 1/19/2004Raymond S. Douglas, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Ophthalmology, UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT