Conjunctivitis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

Conjunctivitis is commonly known as “pink eye.” It is an infection or swelling in the conjunctiva. The infection in the conjunctiva makes the eye red or pink in color. The conjunctiva is a thin clear tissue in the eye.  It helps in keeping your eyelid and eyeball moist. The conjunctiva lies inside of the eyelid over the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis is a common issue in children. It is an epidemic disease, but it’s rarely serious. Pink eye occurs in both eyes. It occurs in both eyes tends to be caused by a virus. Pink eyes inflame the blood vessels in the conjunctiva. Different types of conjunctivitis come with different symptoms and treatments.

What are the types of conjunctivitis?

  1. Viral strains: These are the most common and contagious forms. They start in one eye, where they cause lots of tears and a watery discharge. In a few days, the other eye also gets affected. Swollen lymph node forms in front of the ear and under your jawbone.
  2. Bacterial strains: They usually infect one eye but show up in both. The eye gets filled with a lot of pus and mucus.
  3. Allergic: This type of conjunctivitis produces tearing, itching, and redness in both eyes. Itchy and runny nose are the additional symptoms.
  4. Ophthalmia neonatorum: It is a severe form that affects newborns. Dangerous bacteria cause ophthalmia neonatorum. If not treated immediately it may lead to eye damage or blindness.
  5. Giant papillary: Long-time use of contact lenses or an artificial eye (ocular prosthesis) may cause giant papillary. It is an allergic reaction to a chronic foreign body in the eye.

Note: In some conditions, coronavirus may also cause conjunctivitis in people.

What are the symptoms of eye conjunctivitis?

  • Pink or redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
  • Increased tearing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Thick yellow discharge that forms over the eyelashes after sleep
  • Gritty feeling
  • Increased sensitivity to light

Is conjunctivitis contagious?

Conjunctivitis is a contagious bacterial/viral disease that is easily spread from one person to another. Pink eye is easily transmitted among people by direct contact with an infected person or objects shared with the person. If bacteria cause pink eye it will spread after 24 to 48 hours. If a virus causes conjunctivitis it will spread as long as you have symptoms and even before the symptoms develop. Allergy-caused conjunctivitis and chemical agents that caused pink eye are not contagious. Children having pink eye need to stay home – not visit school/daycare until better.

How to diagnose pink eye?

Diagnosis of pink eye is not difficult for a healthcare provider. A doctor or a healthcare provider can easily detect eye conjunctivitis by simply looking at the eye or by asking simple questions. He may ask for symptoms like itchiness, watery discharge from the eye. They also ask for symptoms like a common cold, hay fever, or asthma. The doctor will perform a few tests such as:

  • Vision test to see whether the vision has been affected.
  • External eye tissue examination, including conjunctiva by using bright light and magnification.
  • Inner eye examination to check the tissues if they get affected or not.
  • A conjunctival tissue smear is typically done if a person is dealing with chronic pink eye, or the condition is not improving with treatment.

What are the treatments for conjunctivitis?

  • Chemical conjunctivitis:

Rinsing the eye with saline is a way to ease the symptoms of chemical conjunctivitis. Besides, topical steroids also are prescribed if the condition is severe.

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis:

Antibiotics are the most common treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis. Adults usually prefer eye drops. For children, an ointment is a good choice due to its ease of application. Antibiotics reduce the symptoms in just a few days, but it is important to finish the prescription to lessen the risk of a pink eye coming back.

  • Viral conjunctivitis:

Majorly, the viruses that cause the common cold also cause viral conjunctivitis. These cold viruses have no treatments but symptoms are mild and resolve on their own in 7 to 10 days. In some rare cases, viruses like herpes simplex or varicella-zoster virus may cause more serious infections. These viruses have antiviral treatments, but these treatments can only work for a specific type of viral infection.

  • Allergic conjunctivitis:

Healthcare providers prescribe an antihistamine to stop the inflammation of the pink eye caused by an allergen. Antihistamines like loratadine and diphenhydramine clear allergic symptoms including pink eye. Apart from these antihistamine eye drops or anti-inflammatory eye drops reduce the impact.

  • Home remedies:

Cold or warm compresses applied to the eyes can help in clearing the discharge associated with viral or bacterial pink eye. Use different washcloths for each eye. Wiping from the inside to the outside of the eye area is a better way to clean the eyes. In addition to a warm or cold compress, eye drops mimic your tears. These may help relieve your pink eye symptoms.

How to prevent pink eye?

  • Keep hands clean. Wash hands thoroughly, especially after touching the eye or the area around it.
  • Infections can also enter through the nose and mouth. So don’t share washcloths, pillowcases, bath towels, or handkerchiefs with others.
  • Don’t use other people’s cosmetics or eye drops, particularly mascara and eyeliner pencils.
  • If the pink eye is caused due to allergens, avoid triggers. Don’t rub the eyes, which may make it worse.
  • Splash the face and eyes with cold water, or use a cool compress.
  • Use aqueous-based artificial tears. Stick with the allergy treatment.

So, follow the necessary precautions that are mentioned above to avoid getting pink eye. If you are affected with either bacterial or viral conjunctivitis take the necessary treatment and use the proper medications suggested by the healthcare provider.


Written by Jagannadh Ch