The most common types of Conjunctivitis (pt. 1 of 2) Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a transparent membrane that covers the whole of the white part of the surface of the eye. Conjunctivitis can affect people of any age. The symptoms are a red eye, discomfort, itchiness and constant tears.
There can also be discharge if it is bacterial conjunctivitis. Treatment involves using cold physiological saline eye washes or eye drops. The treatment depends on the type of conjunctivitis, of which there are two.
1. Infectious conjunctivitis:
The infection may be caused by bacteria or a virus.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is produced by direct eye contact with infected secretions. Such as other people’s tears, saliva. Not necessarily with direct touch, but vapour droplets. The patient exhibits red eye, discomfort and mainly a thick secretion or discharge which can be yellowish or greenish. When the patient wakes up, their eyelids are often stuck together, and it is difficult to open them. Antibiotic eye drops can be used as a treatment.
Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious. It can spread in places where people come together, like schools or the tube, and can cause outbreaks. It spreads through the air, by sharing towels, or bed sheets that have been contaminated. It can often occur in association with a chest infection, as it can be the same virus: the adeno virus.
Viral conjunctivitis usually clears up in 1-2 weeks, as opposed to bacterial which can clear in 3-4 days. If eye drops are used, this is merely to prevent a secondary infection by bacteria. If the eye is very inflamed, mild anti-inflammatory, non-steroidal or steroidal, eye drops can bring relief. Although this does not shorten the course of viral conjunctivitis. But can make the symptoms more tolerable, and must be under the guidance of an ophthalmologist.
2. Allergic conjunctivitis:
The most notable symptom of an allergic conjunctivitis is itchiness. There are four types of allergic conjunctivitis:
- Allergic seasonal and perennial conjunctivitis
- Vernal conjunctivitis
- Atopic conjunctivitis
- Giant papillary conjunctivitis
I will deal with these in a separate blog post. The main message today is the infectious form of conjunctivitis. If it is bacterial, it is likely to clear up in a few days. However, if it is viral, it is going to take longer and drops are mainly palliative to relieve your symptoms.
To be sure what your diagnosis is it is best to see a general ophthalmologist such as Laura Crawley, Jaheed Khan, or myself, at Clinica London.