Conjunctivitis / Pink Eye
By Dr. Brown
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the skin of the area around the eye). This is often generically called "pink-eye".
The usual causes are infectious, chemical, irritation, allergies, and trauma.
PLEASE NOTE: Severe pain and redness might signify a corneal abrasion (scratch of the cornea of the eye). Usually there is an event - a trauma, fingernail scratch, etc. that starts the pain rather abruptly. This is a potentially serious condition and needs to be evaluated and treated soon.
Viral infections of the eye are the most common form, probably around 85% of the time. Usually the pink eye comes with a “cold” including runny nose and cough and fever. Any discharge is usually mild and wiping is usually needed after nap and after waking up in the morning. The pinkness lasts about one day and then goes away by itself and needs no medicine.
Bacterial infections of the eye generally cause more than pinkness of the eye and they cause a much greater volume of discharge from the eye. The discharge is usually yellow or green and thick. You may have to wipe it away every few minutes. Often the child will have an ear infection also. Some will complain about ear pain but as many as 50% will not! The pinkness or redness will last until treated with antibacterial medicine. These medicines used are generally eye drops or ointments or oral antibiotics if there is a coincidental ear infection.
Occasionally a chemical irritant (sunscreen, hair spray, cream) may get in the eye of a patient and cause pinkness or redness. There is usually a lot of pain from these exposures. Washing with lots of water is the first and most important step to remove any more irritation. Call with your concerns immediately to see if you need go to the eye doctor or emergency room.
Sometimes a child will rub their eye when they are tired or their skin near their eye is dry and itchy. Some will really irritate their eye a lot. Here the solution is to stop the rubbing. Other times something will fly into the eye like a piece of dirt or a stick. Flushing any debris out with lots of water is helpful. If there is persistent redness, call our office to be seen.
Allergies and "hayfever" may cause a persistent irritation or redness of the eye that may be confused with an "infectious" pink eye.
Treatment depends on the cause as outlined above. Viral causes rarely can be treated while bacterial can easily be treated. Fungal needs treatment by the eye doctor. Irritation and traumatic causes usually need to be flushed with water and most do not need medicines.
Blocked tear ducts:
Blocked tear ducts can also give a discharge from the eye or eyes in young children and newborns. The discharge is generally a small quantity and usually needs to be wiped away after nap or sleep time. Rarely does it need to be wiped away more often. This generally resolves itself by one year of age and does not need medicine. Once in a while a blocked tear duct will get infected and present as above and may require antibiotics.
Causes for concern:
Causes for concern include persistent discharge, pain, ear pain, or increasing swelling of the eye or surrounding area. Call our office with your concerns.