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Conjunctivitis is a very common condition that occurs when there is a viral, bacterial, or even an allergic reaction in your eye. It is caused by redness or inflammation in the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear tissue that covers the white part of your eye and is under the eyelid. Here are the main types of conjunctivitis and what to look for. If you believe you may have a type of conjunctivitis, be sure to contact your trusted ophthalmologist.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral infections can cause conjunctivitis and are the most common cause of conjunctivitis, affecting 80% of cases. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious. It is airborne and spreads easily by touch, making outbreaks very common between children at school and daycares. You could catch viral conjunctivitis similar to how you can catch the flu, cold, or any upper respiratory infection.

Unfortunately, there are no antibiotics or medications to help treat this type of conjunctivitis since this is a viral infection. By maintaining a consistent routine which includes using a cold compress, artificial tears, and pain relief eye drops, you should begin to feel better and become immune to the viral conjunctivitis.

Symptoms:

  • Red and/or swollen eyelids
  • Mild pain or irritation
  • Watery discharge
  • Crust around the eyelid when you wake up
  • Occurs in one eye and spread to another

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

While bacterial conjunctivitis is rare, bacterial infections can still cause conjunctivitis. Bacteria found in your skin or respiratory system can cause infections. The common types of bacteria that trigger conjunctivitis include staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenza, streptococcus pneumonia, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Like viral conjunctivitis, it can spread easily through touch. That includes hand-to-hand contact and hand-to-nose contact. You can also get it from improper contact lens use. According to the CDC, this type of conjunctivitis is more common in adults than children and you can get it more often between the months of December through April. The discharge can become thick enough to cause your eyelashes to stick together and cause irritation.

Symptoms:

  • Red, sore, painful eye
  • Thick, yellow discharge/pus
  • Eyes feel gritty or like something is in them
  • Swollen eyelids

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic reactions can be the cause of conjunctivitis. When your eye reacts to an allergen, it releases a chemical called histamine as a defense mechanism to fight the invader. The histamine can cause inflammation in your eye, and it can begin to itch and swell. Allergens that cause cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing can also affect your eyes. These allergens can be pollen, dust, pet dander, mold, and even perfumes, skincare, or eye products. This version of conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes.

In order to treat allergic conjunctivitis, your doctor will suggest a few ways to minimize your exposure to allergens. This can include indoor air purifiers, steroid eye drops, anti-inflammatory eye drops, and keeping windows closed when there is pollen.

Symptoms:

  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Redness and inflammation in the eyes
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Sensitive to light

Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

This type of conjunctivitis typically affects people who wear soft contact lenses and normally occurs in both eyes. It forms when there are one or two small bumps on the underside of the eyelid. Over time, the bumps may grow and cause irritation that leads to conjunctivitis. To cure this type of conjunctivitis, it is recommended to stop wearing contacts, and if it does not improve, a steroid can be provided to reduce symptoms.

Symptoms:

  • Mild itching
  • Slight redness
  • Small amounts of mucus
  • Blurred vision
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