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According to the American Optometric Association, conjunctivitis (commonly called “pink eye”) is an infection of the conjunctiva, a layer of protective tissue that covers the inner eyelid and the white of the eye. Characterized by redness and inflammation, most notable in the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids; conjunctivitis or pink eye can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, as well as a number of irritants such as pollen, smoke, dust, and certain chemicals. Conjunctivitis is an extremely common bacterial infection, especially among children and individuals that work in highly contagious environments, such as health care settings and child care. Approximately 64% of bacterial conjunctivitis cases occur in individuals under 19 years of age.
A stye, or a hordeolum, is a small bump in the eyelid caused by the infection of an oil gland. A stye can cause a buildup of material at the site of the infection, leading to a larger bump known as chalazion. Chalazions may eventually interfere with vision if the infected bump becomes grows large enough. Styes are a very common occurrence, and most resolve on their own. Most people will develop a stye at some point in their life.
Conjunctivitis is classified by the cause of the inflammation. The following are the types of conjunctivitis with their corresponding causes:
A stye is caused by the viral or bacterial infection of an eyelid oil gland.
Both styes and conjunctivitis are caused by infections of the eye. The following factors can increase the risk of developing an eye infection:
Most cases of conjunctivitis and styes can be diagnosed with a simple eye exam. According to the American Optometric Association, to rule out other causes of the symptoms or to confirm the diagnosis, a doctor may order the following tests:
Medical history/physical exam, to assess the patients risk of developing an eye infection and check for any other symptoms.
Detailed eye exam, including:
Tissue cultures to closely examine the inflamed tissue. This can be especially helpful in cases where the infection is not responding to treatment.
The following may be signs of conjunctivitis:
The following may be signs of a stye:
Both conjunctivitis and styes are treatable conditions. Styes most often burst by themselves within several days or weeks of appearing and do not require medical attention. More severe cases of styes may require anti-inflammatory drops, creams, or injections.
The prognosis for conjunctivitis is largely dependent on the cause of the infection. Cases of bacterial conjunctivitis are typically resolved within three to four days of treatment with antibiotic eye drops/ointment. Since antibiotics are not helpful in clearing a viral infection, viral conjunctivitis can be more stubborn to resolve and may take two to three weeks to fully clear. Cases of allergic and chemical conjunctivitis may be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-lasting), depending on the source of the irritation. Most chronic cases of conjunctivitis can be managed with topical steroid eye drops or anti-inflammatory medications.
If you have conjunctivitis or a stye, the following tips can help you speed your recovery:
Neither conjunctivitis nor styes are regularly screened for. The symptoms of both are typically recognizable and are most often first detected by patients. If you are experiencing symptoms of conjunctivitis/styes, contact your doctor immediately.
The following tips can help you to prevent conjunctivitis/styes:
Styes typically go away on their own within a few days to a week. If a stye becomes more infected and grows into a chalazion, it may require medical attention.
According to the American Optometric Association, the following treatments are available for patients with conjunctivitis:
The following treatments may help lessen the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis:
Bacterial conjunctivitis can most often be cured by the use of prescription antibiotic eye drops.
Since viral conjunctivitis will not respond to antibiotic treatment, most treatment plans focus on controlling the symptoms of the infection with things like cool compresses or, in more serious cases, topical steroid solutions.
Treatment for chemical conjunctivitis is largely aimed at flushing the chemical from the eye. Topical steroids may be prescribed to lessen inflammation. In the most serious cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair any serious damage to tissue.
The following alternative treatments may help prevent infection and/or manage the symptoms of an eye infection:
Vitamin C and Zinc, which may both help to boost your immune system and increase your body’s chance of fighting off infection.
Herbal therapies, including the use of the following herbs:
Homeopathic medicine, which uses extremely dilute concentrations of herbal remedies to aid the body in recovery. Homeopathic medicines used for the treatment of pink eye include:
Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine in which small needles are inserted at points throughout the body in order to restore the flow of bodily energy. Acupuncture can help to both decrease bodily inflammation and boost the immune system.
If you are caring for someone with conjunctivitis or a stye, consider the following:
If you experience the following, contact a doctor:
To find a registered ophthalmologist, you can also visit The American Academy of Ophthalmology
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
For more information on conjunctivitis, visit:
For more information about styes, visit:
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