Have you ever heard the expression “What a Shiner!” It means in some countries like Latin America, when your eye is swollen and red. This could be caused by a blow or inflammatory disease. Among the diseases that can give you a “black eye” or “shiner” is conjunctivitis or “pink eye”
If you have ever had “pink eye,” you probably agree that it’s both ugly and annoying! Luckily, I have never had it but we have to be alert since we are all susceptible to this illness.
Conjunctivitis is an infection in the eye membrane, a thin film of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. This infection is very common, especially in children. And it can affect one or both eyes. In some cases it is contagious and spreads quickly.
Although the symptoms depend on the origin of the infection, the following list details general signs:
- Itching in one or both eyes
- Tearful or runny eyes
- Burning in the eyes
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Increased light sensitivity
- Thick yellow/green discharge in the eye, especially when sleeping
- A feeling of something in the the eye
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
Given one or more of these signs, you should visit the doctor immediately to detect the origin of the infection. This visit will decide what treatment is required. A professional ophthalmologist can tell you from a simple eye exam if you have conjunctivitis and how to cure it.
Conjunctivitis can be diagnosed by means of a complete eye test. The optometrist may require a tissue sample, especially when the disease is chronic, when it repeats or when no treatment cures the infection.
However, with these symptoms, an eye test and conjunctive analysis of the internal structure of the eye, it should be sufficient for a proper diagnosis.
There are 4 main types of conjunctivitis: Viral, bacterial, chemical and allergy related.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis: This is an infection usually caused by staph or strep bacteria. It comes from our respiratory system or skin. It can also be transmitted by insects, direct (touching your eye with a dirty hand) and indirect (using makeup, for example) physical contact with other infected individuals.
There is a severe form of bacterial conjunctivitis called neonatal ophthalmia, which affects newborns. This condition can be fatal if not treated on time! This occurs when the newborn passes through the birth canal of a mother affected with STD’s like Chlamydia.
The treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis requires antibiotics, which could be eye drops or ointments.
Viral Conjunctivitis: Is generally caused by contagious viruses associated with a cold. It is transmitted just like a cold, by coughing or sneezing from infected individuals.
Viral conjunctivitis has no treatment. It has to run its natural course just like a cold. In this case, warm water compresses (just like the bacterial conjunctivitis), and artificial tears can help to ease the discomfort. In more serious cases, the doctor can prescribe topical steroids.
Viral and Bacterial conjunctivitis are contagious and can spread quickly. They can complicate the vision of the infection individual if not treated, but it is not life threating.
Allergic Conjunctivitis: This type is common in those individuals that suffer seasonal allergies. It occurs more often in people with seasonal allergies. There is a particular type called giant papillary conjunctivitis, which is characterized by the permanent existence of something foreign in the eye. In general, those who wear hard / soft contact lenses without changing them often are susceptible. Individuals with stitches or a glass eye are also affected by this disease. In the case of contact lens wearers, contact your ophthalmologist to find a non-allergic option to use.
To treat this type of conjunctivitis, it is necessary to discover the reason behind the allergy. In general, antihistamines eye drops may be prescribed including topical steroids drops. Cold water compresses can also help to calm the symptoms.
Chemical Conjunctivitis: Has to do with irritating factors like pool chlorine, smoke, pollution and other harmful chemical substances to which the affected individual is exposed.
To treat this infection it is recommended to wash eyes with a saline solution and topical steroids drops may be required. Treatment will depend on the severity of the wound and infection.
In any case, when faced with this type of infection, it is necessary to take the following precautions to avoid worsening symptoms and help speed up your recovery:
-Do not rub eyes or touch them with your hands (especially dirty hands!)
-Maintain proper and frequent healthy hand hygiene.
-Do not share towels with others and change daily.
-Do not wear makeup or borrow from others.
Always talk to your personal doctor if you have any doubts. Remember: Inflammation is very common and simple to treat. So don’t ignore it! Treat it!
Until the next time!