Common symptoms include: pink or red discoloration in the whites of one or both eyes, excessive tearing or discharge, swollen eyelids, blurry vision, pain, itching or burning, and a scratching sensation when you blink.
A thorough eye examination is needed to diagnose conjunctivitis. Careful observation of the eye structure and membranes under magnification can show the extent of the condition and if any damage has been done to delicate eye tissue. To pinpoint the cause, the patient’s history and symptoms need to be evaluated for any possible allergens or environmental irritants. In some cases, a culture of infected tissue may need to be taken.
If the cause is allergen or chemical related, doctors may flush the eyes with saline to clear the irritant. For allergic conjunctivitis, they can prescribe an antihistamine to alleviate symptoms. Steroid eye drops may also be recommended for persistent cases. The treatment of infectious conjunctivitis varies greatly depending on if it is bacterial or viral. Bacterial cases will respond well to antibiotics, whereas viral infections will not. In most cases, viral conjunctivitis must be monitored but left to run its course much like a cold or flu. Prevention is critical, especially if you or someone you know has an infection. Always use proper hand washing techniques and avoid touching your eyes with unwashed hands. Don’t share items such as eye droppers, contact lens cases or eye makeup. Disinfect any pillowcases or face towels.