The conjunctiva is the clear mucous membrane layer covering the white portion of the eye. It extends under the eyelid where it turns back and becomes the underneath mucous membrane lining of the upper and lower lids. When this membrane becomes inflamed, it is called conjunctivitis.
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Conjunctivitis can be caused by a number of factors, including:
- bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
- chemicals or fumes
- foreign matter that gets under the eyelid
- irritation from contact lenses
What can be done to prevent the infection?
Conjunctivitis cannot always be prevented. Some helpful measures include:
- avoiding makeup, towels, linens, and other objects from an infected individual
- practicing good lid hygiene, by rubbing the eyelids without soap under the water stream when showering
- using good handwashing when coming into contact with a child or adult who has conjunctivitis
- using safety glasses during work or hobbies in which debris is flying around in the air
How is the infection diagnosed?
Diagnosis of conjunctivitis begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare professional may use a slit-lamp microscope to examine the eye. This instrument magnifies the surface of the eye.
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the infection?
If the infection spreads to the eyelids, more serious problems such as cellulitis could occur. Cellulitis is an infection that can lead to abscesses, or pus pockets, and tissue destruction. Cellulitis following conjunctivitis may occur in children and is accompanied by high fever. It is very rare in adults.
What are the risks to others?
Some forms of conjunctivitis are contagious from person to person.
What are the treatments for the infection?
Cultures are rarely indicated except in the new born or those with frankly purulent discharge.
Antibiotic eye drops or ointments are used for conjunctivitis caused by a bacterial infection. Fourth generation fluoroquinolones are rarely indicated. Neomycin should be avoided because of the high incidence of dermatitis.
Eye drops containing antihistamines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, or corticosteroids can be used if allergies are the cause,
Oral antibiotics are rarely indicated except in children with cellulitis.
If foreign matter from under the lids has caused the inflammation, it should be removed.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Eye drops may cause irritation or an allergic reaction. Antibiotics may cause stomach upset, rash, or allergic reaction.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Most of the time, conjunctivitis clears up without any further problems in seven to ten days.
How is the condition monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.