Conjunctivitis and Pink Eye are terms that are thrown around quite regularly. But can you tell the difference between conjunctivitis and different types of eye infections? Even with common medical issues, it’s important to understand them and to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms.
At Complete Family Eye Care, we’re always happy to take the time to answer your questions, address any concerns you might have, and help you get to know your eyes a little better.
The conjunctiva is a mucus membrane that covers the surface of the eyeball, as well as the interior of the eye. It helps to keep the eye moist, lubricated, and safe from foreign objects.
There are a number of different kinds of conjunctivitis caused by a number of different factors, but the most common are allergic conjunctivitis, viral conjunctivitis, and bacterial conjunctivitis.
Sometimes, your body misinterprets outside stimuli as a threat and sends messages to your body to block the stimuli out. This is called an allergic reaction and it’s exactly what happens with allergic conjunctivitis. Allergens like dust, pollen, or pet dander can cause the eyes to react negatively.
Allergic conjunctivitis produces red, itchy, sometimes swollen eyes. Many patients experience an excess of tears, while others notice a dry, gritty feeling in their eyes. The allergen that causes allergic conjunctivitis may also cause other reactions like hives, sneezing, trouble breathing, or even an itchy mouth.
The best way to mitigate an allergic reaction is by figuring out what triggers the reaction and then removing that element from your life. If that’s not possible, antihistamines should help.
If you’re not positive it’s allergic conjunctivitis, come see the doctor. While this strain doesn’t necessarily require medical intervention, others do; so it’s important that you’re properly diagnosed.
Viruses are to blame for some of life’s more unpleasant inevitabilities; like the common cold, cold sores, the stomach flu, and chickenpox. In fact, viral conjunctivitis can be caused by some of the same viruses we just mentioned. When you come into contact with someone who’s sick with some kind of virus, you can actually be infected through your eyes.
If you do catch viral conjunctivitis, it’s best to stay away from busy public spaces to avoid spreading the illness. This strain usually starts in one eye, but often spreads to the other, so it’s important to throw out any makeup you’ve used on the affected eye and wash your bedding regularly to avoid cross-infection.
Sometimes the same virus that causes your conjunctivitis can infect your body, resulting in a sore throat, coughing, achiness, or maybe even vomiting. Whether you experience those symptoms or not, you will notice red, itchy, sometimes painful eyes. Your eyes will water, and will potentially produce a stringy discharge.
Unfortunately, it’s usually best for viral conjunctivitis to run its course; your body will fight the virus on its own and your symptoms will eventually go away. Having said that: it’s still important to see a doctor. They may recommend treatments to reduce the severity of your symptoms and improve your overall comfort.
Only a doctor can accurately diagnose the kind of conjunctivitis you’re experiencing, and only your doctor can recommend the best course of treatment.
Most of us have a specific experience or set of symptoms we think of when we hear this word. But conjunctivitis actually just refers to an inflammation of the conjunctiva.
Your body is covered in good bacteria. But sometimes, bad bacteria is introduced and causes all sorts of nasty problems and infections. That’s what happens with bacterial conjunctivitis; your eye is exposed to bacteria it shouldn’t have been.
This strain of conjunctivitis is incredibly contagious, so you should stay out of public as much as possible and throw out any makeup or cosmetics you’ve used on the affected eye to avoid cross-infection. You should also regularly wash your bedding and anything else that comes into contact with the infected eye (especially washcloths used for warm compresses).
With bacterial conjunctivitis, you can expect extreme irritation and discomfort, swelling, and redness of the eye. You’ll also probably notice a thick, sticky, yellow, white, or greenish discharge coming from the affected eye. This discharge is so sticky and heavy that patients regularly wake up to find their eye is sealed shut. If this happens, just use a warm wet washcloth, gently dabbing and brushing the discharge away until your eye can open again. Be sure to wash the washcloth immediately.
Bacterial conjunctivitis requires treatment. See your doctor for a formal diagnosis as soon as possible. If they find you have the bacterial strain of conjunctivitis, they’ll most likely prescribe you antibiotics.
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