Dr. Burke is one of Cincinnati’s most trusted resources concerning conjunctivitis in children.

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, red or pink eye, is the term used to described inflammation of the conjunctiva.

What is the conjunctiva?

The firm, white shell of the eye (sclera) is covered by an almost transparent, thin membrane called the conjunctiva. The normal and healthy conjunctiva contains fine blood vessels within it. Because the conjunctiva is such a diaphanous tissue, whenever the conjunctiva becomes irritated or inflamed (no matter what the cause) it responds to in only one way – the blood vessel become dilated and more prominent which turns the eye red and may make the tissue slightly swollen.

What are the causes of conjunctivitis?

There are many different causes of conjunctivitis, the most common are infections, allergies, and chemical or environmental irritants.

What is infectious conjunctivitis?

The common infectious causes of conjunctivitis are bacteria and viruses. Bacterial conjunctivitis causes a red eye that is typically associated with a considerable amount of mucus and discharge. Viral conjunctivitis, on the other hand, causes a red eye with only a thin watery discharge.

What is allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is a red eye caused by pollens or hay fever, animal dander, chemical irritants that are rubbed onto the eye, and environmental airborne irritants. The discharge tends to be only a small amount of a thin, watery discharge, although occasionally it appears as a thin, stringy, mucoid discharge. Those with allergic conjunctivitis often complain that her eyes are very itchy.

How do you treat infectious conjunctivitis?

If the conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria, topically applied antibiotic eyedrops or ophthalmic ointment are very helpful in limiting the duration of the pink eye to only a few days. Viral conjunctivitis does not respond to these topical antibiotics but fortunately spontaneously resolves in 1-2 weeks.

What are the treatment options for allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis often responds to cool, moist compresses held over the eyes and by eliminating the hand rubbing that potentiates the allergic response. For those that need more relief, over the counter and prescription eyedrops work well at relieving the itch and redness.

Is conjunctivitis contagious?

Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis may be quite contagious. Hand washing is the most important preventive measure. Those with infectious conjunctivitis should use their own washcloths and towels and not share these with anyone.

Will there be any permanent damage caused by conjunctivitis?

Most causes of conjunctivitis will clear without any complications.

What should make me worry about a red eye?

Any eye that has been red for more than a few days, is painful, is light sensitive, has a foreign body sensation, or blurred vision may have something more serious than just routine conjunctivitis. In cases like these, an examination by an ophthalmologist is indicated and encouraged.

Additional Information:


Allergic Conjunctivitis