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Conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye diseases. Pink eye, red eye and sore eye, the common name for conjunctivitis, is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. The eye appears pink in conjunctivitis because the blood vessels are dilated. There are many causes of conjunctivitis. Viruses are the most common cause. Other causes include:

  •  Allergies (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Bacteria
  • Certain diseases
  • Chemical exposure
  • Fungi
  • Foreign objects in the eye
  • Use of contact lenses (especially extended-wear soft lenses)

Viruses, which are more common and last several weeks, may cause an upper respiratory infection (or cold) at the same time. Unlike viruses, bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with a variety of antibiotic eye drops or ointments, which usually cure the infection in a day or two. Simple bacterial conjunctivitis is a common and usually self -limiting condition. Allergic Conjunctivitis Not everyone with conjunctivitis has an infection. Allergies can cause conjunctivitis too. Typically, people with allergic conjunctivitis have itchy eyes, especially in spring and fall. Eye drops to control itching are used to treat allergic conjunctivitis. Cool compresses decrease swelling and itching. Artificial tears dilute the allergens and form a protective barrier over the surface of the eye. Avoid rubbing the eyes. It makes the symptoms worse. Contact Lens induced conjunctivitis Sometimes, prolonged or over wear of contact lenses may also cause conjunctivitis. This is seen almost universally in extended-wear soft contact lenses wearers. Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC) is a type of allergic reaction that usually affects both eyes, typically due to protein deposits on contact lenses. Since protein deposits are more common with soft contact lens use, GPC is more common in soft lens wear than rigid lens wear (hard lenses). GPC can be caused due to an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the contact lenses and/or the solutions used. GPC is characterized by a series of visible white lumps, nodules, or giant papillae usually on the underside of the upper eyelid. GPC can cause extensive irritation and scarring under the upper eyelids that can prohibit further use of soft contact lenses. In most cases of GPC, even after changing contact lens materials and wearing schedule and using eye drops to reverse the allergic reaction, you will at some point have to discontinue wearing your contact lenses. Signs & Symptoms

  • Blurred vision
  • Whitish/yellowish discharge
  • Crusts that form on the eyelid overnight
  • Gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Irritation with increasing intensity
  • Burning sensation
  • Increased tearing
  • Swelling of conjunctiva
  • Itching of the eye
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light

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Prevention

Conjunctivitis can be very contagious. The best way to control the spread of red eye caused by infection is by practising good hygiene. If you have a red eye, the following measures will help:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap frequently and do not touch your eyes with your hands
  • Change your towel, pillowcase and bed sheets often and do not share them with others
  • Discard eye cosmetics particularly mascara which you have used
  • Do not share cosmetics or personal eye-care items with others
  • Follow instructions for proper contact lens care
  • If a child is infected, avoid close contact with other children

Finally, not everyone with pink eye has conjunctivitis. Sometimes more serious diseases, such as infections, damage to the cornea, very severe glaucoma, or inflammation on the inside of the eye cause the conjunctiva to become inflamed and pink. Vision is usually normal if the pink eye is really conjunctivitis. If vision is affected, or if the problem does not get better in a few days, see an ophthalmologist. It is also important to note that unless conjunctivitis is treated promptly, keratitis may occur.