What is Conjunctivitis?


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What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctiva is a mucous membrane that covers the inner surface of the eyelids and the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is normally clear, but when inflammation occurs it turns pink or red. Red eyes occur in all cases of conjunctivitis, but red eyes do not indicate conjunctivitis and can occur due to many different reasons. Acute conjunctivitis may occur due to infection or other causes. While bacteria or viruses cause infection, it can also occur due to allergies, poisoning or other unspecified reasons. The incidence of conjunctivitis, which can occur in children or adults, varies depending on its type. While bacterial conjunctivitis is more common in children, most cases of infection are of viral origin in both adults and children.

What Causes Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, which occurs with inflammation of the conjunctiva layer, may be caused by many different reasons. Essentially, eye redness occurs when the blood vessels on the layer become inflamed, thus widening and becoming more visible.

Possible reasons for this situation are:

  • Infections caused by bacteria and viruses
  • Eye allergies to any agent such as pollen, dust, mold (conjunctivitis)
  • Irritations caused by any chemical substance that gets into or splashes into the eyes.
  • In newborn babies, the tear duct is not fully opened yet
  • Irritation caused by a foreign object getting into the eye
  • Stenosis and blockages in the tear duct
  • Use of contact lenses, use of lens solutions with inappropriate content or exceeding the recommended usage time of contact lenses
  • Infections related to the upper respiratory tract
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke, polluted air or wind
  • Use of unhygienic pools
  • Touching eyes with dirty hands

Who are The Risk Groups?

People at risk for conjunctivitis:

  • People with allergies
  • Those who are in crowded places such as nurseries, schools, offices, where viruses or bacteria can easily spread
  • They can be counted as those who use lenses that are replaced at long intervals.

Although they are in the risk group, it is possible to protect these people from the disease by taking the necessary precautions.

What are The Symptoms of Conjunctivitis?

  • Redness in the Eyes:

It is one of the typical symptoms of conjunctivitis.
It occurs as a result of swelling of the conjunctival vessels due to inflammation in the eye, resulting in edema.
If it is detected and treated immediately, it does not cause permanent damage to the eye, such as vision damage.

  • Swollen, Red Eyelids:

These symptoms usually start in one eye and begin to appear in the other eye within a few days. Swelling of the eyelids is more common in bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.

  • Watery Eyes:

Viral and allergic conjunctivitis cause more tear production than normal and watery eyes.

  • Itching and Burning in the Eyes:

It is especially the most typical symptom of allergic conjunctivitis. Accordingly, patients rub their eyes constantly. And this further exacerbates the disease.

  • Burr Formation:

It is a common symptom in viral and bacterial conjunctivitis. When the burr color is green-yellow, it may be a sign of bacterial conjunctivitis.

  • Light Sensitivity:

Conjunctivitis may cause mild sensitivity to light. Serious symptoms such as vision changes, severe light sensitivity or severe pain may indicate the progression of conjunctivitis and the beginning of an infection in the corneal layer. In this case, a repeat medical examination is required.

  • Swelling in the Ear Area:

Viral eye infections (adenoviral conjunctivitis) may cause panic among patients due to swelling in the eyelids, swelling in front of the ear, and subconjunctival bleeding.

  • Sore Throat and Runny Nose:

Fever, sore throat and runny nose may occur in children.

What are The Types of The Disease?

Allergic Conjunctiva:

It is also known as pink eye among the society. Although it affects both eyes, it is not contagious. The reason for its emergence is the reactions of the eyes to various substances in the air that cause allergies, such as dust, animal dander and pollen.

It may occur seasonally and cause eye infection, or it may develop due to other reasons. It is the only type of conjunctivitis that can be seen due to genetic transmission. Preventive or curative treatment can be performed with antihistamine drugs, artificial tear drops and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Bacterial Conjunctiva:

As its name suggests, it is a type caused by bacteria. It is inflammation of the eye membrane due to bacteria. It can only be seen in one eye and can be said to be contagious.

Although it can be seen in all age groups, it is most common in children. The most common symptom is light green or yellow discharge in the eyes.

Touching eyes without clean hands,
Using cosmetic products that cause bacteria production,
Being in crowded places
It occurs due to not paying enough attention to hygiene rules such as:
Antibiotic drops and creams are used for healing purposes.

Viral Conjunctiva:

It is a type of conjunctiva usually caused by adenoviruses.
It is frequently seen with upper respiratory tract infections such as flu and cold. Since it resolves spontaneously within a few days and progresses with mild symptoms, there is usually no need for treatment. It is the type with the highest contagion.

Is Conjunctivitis Contagious?

Conjunctivitis can be contagious when caused by a virus. The risk of spread is higher when there is discharge from the eye. The virus can survive on surfaces for up to two weeks.

How is Conjunctivitis Diagnosed?

Conjunctivitis is diagnosed based on symptoms and physical examination. Conjunctivitis is usually diagnosed by an ophthalmologist or a healthcare professional.

The following steps can be followed in the diagnostic process:

  • Taking the Patient’s History:

The doctor questions the patient’s symptoms and time of onset, duration of eye discomfort or irritation, and previous similar conditions.

  • Eye Examination:

The doctor examines the eyes carefully. Examine for redness, swelling, secretions, sticky eyelids, or other symptoms.

  • Taking a Tear Sample:

The doctor may take a tear sample to determine the type of conjunctivitis. This sampling can help diagnose bacterial or viral infection.

  • Light Inspection:

The doctor may use a light source to check the eyes’ response to light. In case of conjunctivitis, the sensitivity of the eyes to light may be increased.

  • Conjunctiva Swab:

In certain cases, the doctor may take a conjunctival swab. This can be used for laboratory testing to determine the type of infection and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Conjunctivitis is a treatable condition, but it needs the right treatment. Once diagnosed, your doctor can choose the appropriate treatment method for you.

What Are Other Eye Diseases That May Cause Conjunctivitis?

  • Corneal Abrasion:

It is a superficial scratching of the cornea that causes sharp pain, tearing and redness.

  • Foreign Bodies in the Eye:

The foreign object can irritate the cornea or conjunctiva, causing redness and discomfort.

  • Dry Eyes:

Eye redness due to chronic irritation of the cornea and conjunctiva caused by insufficient amounts of tears.

  • Blepharitis:

Chronic eyelid inflammation, which can also cause recurrent styes.

  • Subconjunctival Bleeding:

A damaged blood vessel in the eye can cause a bloodshot, red appearance in the white part of the eye without pain or other symptoms.

  • Episcleritis:

Inflammation of the tissue located between the conjunctiva and the white part of the eye.

  • Sclerite:

Inflammation or infection of the white part of the eye.

  • Keratitis:

Inflammation or infection of the cornea.

  • Uveitis:

Inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea.

  • Acute Glaucoma:

A sudden increase in eye pressure that causes eye redness, severe pain, and decreased vision.

How to Treat Conjunctivitis?

Treatment for conjunctivitis may vary depending on the type of underlying cause. The goal of treatment is to apply appropriate methods to relieve symptoms and control infection or inflammation.

Below is information about common methods used to treat conjunctivitis:

  • Antibiotics for Bacterial Infections:

For cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, doctors often prescribe antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics inhibit the growth of bacteria and help control the infection.

  • Antiviral Drugs for Viral Infections:

For cases of viral conjunctivitis, antiviral medications can be used. However, viruses usually heal on their own, and treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.

  • Antihistamines for Allergies:

Antihistamine medications can be used for cases of allergic conjunctivitis. These medications control allergic reactions and relieve symptoms.

  • Eye Drops:

In the treatment of conjunctivitis, eye drops are also often used. Eye drops relieve symptoms and help control the infection.

  • Treatments to be Done at Home:

There are some treatments you can do at home to relieve conjunctivitis symptoms. For example, you can apply warm compresses to keep the eyes clean and moist. Also, do not scratch your eyes and do not touch your eyes with dirty hands.

How to Prevent Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is a disease that can be easily transmitted from person to person or from one eye to another.
In addition, infection in the conjunctiva can easily develop in cases such as not paying attention to hand hygiene, touching the eyes with dirty hands, rubbing or scratching the eyes.
If care is not taken, healed conjunctivitis may recur.
Frequent recurrence of these infections may cause permanent damage to the eye.
Therefore, various measures must be taken to prevent conjunctivitis.

Precautions that can be taken to protect against conjunctivitis include:

  • Washing hands frequently during the day and never touching eyes with unclean hands.
  • Do not insert or remove contact lenses with dirty hands, and use contact lenses and lens solutions by paying attention to the conditions of use, duration and hygiene rules.
  • Removing contact lenses during bathing and showering.
  • Wearing swimming goggles when entering swimming pools.
  • Not sharing items such as towels, make-up or eye cream with others.
  • Regularly disinfect items that come into constant contact with hands, such as mobile phones, keyboards and mice.
  • Covering the mouth with a napkin when sneezing and coughing, and not touching the eyes without washing the hands afterwards.
  • People with allergic eyes should stay away from agents that are known to be a source of allergy and avoid the use of make-up materials with unknown ingredients that cause allergies.
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