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The Eyes Have It: Conjunctivitis
- Red, watery eyes
- Inflamed inner eyelids
- Scratchy feeling in the eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Pus-like or watery discharge
- Sensitivity to light
- Swelling of the eyelid
Types of Conjunctivitis
- Allergic, which occurs with exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet hair, or dander
- Chemical, which occurs with exposure to irritants such as hairspray and pollutants
- Ophthalmia neonatorum, which occurs when an infant's tear ducts are not completely opened or if the infant is exposed to bacteria in the birth canal
- Bacterial conjunctivitis, which occurs with exposure to some sort of bacteria
- Viral conjunctivitis, which is caused by a virus
- Flush your eyes with cold water.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes.
- Apply a cold compress.
- Avoid using eye makeup and contacts.
Preventing Conjunctivitis from Spreading
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
- Avoid rubbing the infected eye or eyes.
- Do not share towels, pillowcases, or handkerchiefs with others, and use these items only once before washing.
- Place a clean towel over the pillowcase each night to avoid re-infection.
- Do not share eye makeup with others, especially eyeliner and mascara. And avoid using any eye makeup at all while you are suffering from any type of conjunctivitis.
- If your child gets bacterial or viral conjunctivitis, you should keep them out of school for a few days. Otherwise, it is not uncommon for the condition to spread throughout an entire class.
When to Seek Treatment
- You develop redness or discomfort in your eye that is affecting your vision.
- The redness and discomfort in your eye starts to become painful, or a yellow or green discharge begins to develop.
- You have a newborn child whose eyes are inflamed and are not producing tears. This may be a sign of ophthalmia neonatorum which, if not treated quickly, can lead to permanent eye damage.
American Academy of Ophthalmology http://www.aao.org
National Eye Institute http://www.nei.nih.gov
Canadian Family Physician http://www.cfpc.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Allergic conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated August 19, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2013.
Infectious conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated August 21, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2013.
Ophthalmia neonatorum. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated May 8, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2013.
Raizman MB, Rothman JS, Maroun F, Rand WM. Effect of eye rubbing on signs and symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis in cat-sensitive individuals. Ophthalmology. 2000 Dec;107(12):2158-2161.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 10/2013
- Update Date: 10/14/2013