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Conjunctivitis, also recognized as pinkeye, is swelling of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva, lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the white part of the eye or the sclera.

Causes: Conjunctivitis may occur owing to various factors such as: viruses, bacteria, irritants like shampoos, dirt, smoke, and pool chlorine. Allergies such as dust, pollen, or a special type of allergy that affects some people who wear contact lenses can also cause this condition.

Conjunctivitis caused by various bacteria and viruses can multiply easily from person to person, but is not a severe health risk if diagnosed swiftly. Conjunctivitis in newborn babies should be reported to a doctor right away, as it could be a vision-threatening disease.

Cure:  Conjunctivitis caused by any bacteria, counting those associated with STDs, is treated with antibiotics, in the form of eye drops, ointments, or pills. In case of Conjunctivitis caused by viruses avoid contact with other people. Hands should be frequently washed in this condition. Contact lenses and eye make-up should be strictly avoided. For conjunctivitis caused by any irritating substance, one should use cold water to wash the substance from the eye for five minutes.

Allergy related conjunctivitis should gradually improve once the allergy is treated and the allergen is removed.

When we see these patients in the office weeks after the infection, are we seeing ongoing inflammation or delayed recovery from prior inflammation? The answer, of course, is “yes.” We rarely see a decrease in tear volume, though; it is unlikely that aqueous production is reduced and thus causing those chronic symptoms. More likely is the case that the goblet cells are still underperforming and that our patient’s symptoms are caused by inadequate mucin.

In general we are better off, and so are our patients, if we can simply support them through this phase with palliative care. Artificial tears are often all that is necessary. I like those “utility infielder” tears like Refresh Optive (Allergan) and Systane Ultra (Alcon) here, but your mileage may vary. When necessary, though, I pull a pretty quick trigger on steroid treatment in the ultra-symptomatic. Fluorometholone and loteprednol have a more favorable safety profile so I lean toward them if I can.
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