Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid.
Conjunctivitis has a number of different causes, including:
- Bacteria (such as gonorrhea or chlamydia)
- Irritants such as shampoos, dirt, smoke, and pool chlorine
- Allergies, like dust, pollen, or a special type of allergy that affects some contact lens wearers
It caused by some bacteria and viruses can spread easily from person to person, but is not a serious health risk if diagnosed promptly.
The symptoms differ based on the cause of the inflammation, but may include:
- Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
- Increased amount of tears
- Thick yellow discharge that crusts over the eyelashes, especially after sleep
- Green or white discharge from the eye
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis - Viral conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis may affect one or both eyes. Viral conjunctivitis usually produces a watery discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis often produces a thicker, yellow-green discharge. Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can be associated with colds or with symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a sore throat.
- Both viral and bacterial types are very contagious. They are spread through direct or indirect contact with the eye secretions of someone who's infected.
- Adults and children alike can develop both of these types of pink eye. However, bacterial conjunctivitis is more common in children than it is in adults.
- Allergic conjunctivitis - Allergic conjunctivitis affects both eyes and is a response to an allergy-causing substance such as pollen. In response to allergens, your body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This antibody triggers special cells called mast cells in the mucous lining of your eyes and airways to release inflammatory substances, including histamines. Your body's release of histamine can produce a number of allergy signs and symptoms, including red or pink eyes.
- If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you may experience intense itching, tearing and inflammation of the eyes - as well as sneezing and watery nasal discharge.
- Conjunctivitis resulting from irritation - Irritation from a chemical splash or foreign object in your eye is also associated with conjunctivitis. Sometimes flushing and cleaning the eye to rid it of the chemical or object causes redness and irritation. Signs and symptoms, which may include watery eyes and a mucous discharge, usually clear up on their own within about a day.
Risk factors include:
- Exposure to something for which you have an allergy (allergic conjunctivitis)
- Exposure to someone infected with the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis
- Using contact lenses, especially extended-wear lenses
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