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Conjunctivitis / Red Eye

Conjunctivitis, sometimes referred to as red or pink eye, is caused by either a virus or bacteria. It can also be caused by an allergic or environmental reaction. It is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eyes.

Common symptoms consist of red, inflamed eyes, normally first occurring in one eye and often moving to the other. There may also be burning, itching and swelling of the eyelids. In viral infection, there may be a watery discharge. In bacterial conjunctivitis the discharge is thicker, causing the eyelids to stick together in the morning.

Treatment: Viral infections are usually left to the body’s own immune system to clear up; cold compresses can help relieve the burning and swelling, while warm compresses can help keep the eyelids free of discharge. Bacterial infections usually require an antibiotic drop or ointment, such as Polysporin, to kill the bacteria.

If you are a contact lens wearer, it is advisable that you discontinue contact lens wear until the infection resolves and that you dispose of your current lenses.

Contagiousness: Bacterial conjunctivitis is typically contagious as soon as symptoms appear and remains contagious as long as there is discharge from the eye or until 24 hours after the antibiotic treatment has begun. Viral conjunctivitis is typically contagious before symptoms start and remains contagious as long as the symptoms are present. If you have conjunctivitis, it is important to wash your hands frequently, especially after touching your eyes. The infection spreads easily from one eye to the next or to others via contaminated hands or objects.