Conjunctivitis or 'pink eye', is inflammation of the conjunctival membrane (a thin layer of skin covering the white area of the eye). The inflammation causes the blood vessels in the sclera (white of the eye) to enlarge, giving the eyeball a reddish pink appearance. In addition to the pink eye appearance, the eye will also be watery and itchy. A discharge may also be present, which can stick the eyelids together over night.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by irritations for example chlorine in swimming pools or by allergies to pollen or house dust. In this form the conjunctivitis is not contagious and will not spread if the irritant is removed. However, conjunctivitis can also be caused by viral or bacterial infection, which can be contagious, spreading from person to person. A sufferer must observe good hygiene (cleaning hands after touching the area around the eye) to prevent spreading the infection. In a bacterial infection the discharge will be thick and pus like, whilst a viral infection will be watery.
Treatment for irritant conjunctivitis is to isolate and remove the cause of the irritation and apply cooling eye drops. Infective conjunctivitis can be treated with antibacterial eye drops. If left untreated severe conjunctivitis may result in some degree of damage to the cornea.
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