What Causes Conjunctivitis of the Eye?

Conjunctivitis or Pink eye

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye,” is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and lining the inner surface of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis can have various causes, including infections, allergies, irritants, and underlying health conditions. Here are some common causes of conjunctivitis:

  • Viral Infection: Viruses, such as adenoviruses and enteroviruses, are common causes of viral conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and often spreads through respiratory droplets or contact with contaminated surfaces.
  • Bacterial Infection: Bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, or Haemophilus influenzae. Bacterial conjunctivitis is also contagious and can spread through direct contact.
  • Allergic Reaction: Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva reacts to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, or certain medications. It is not contagious.
  • Irritants: Exposure to irritants like smoke, air pollution, chlorine in swimming pools, or harsh chemicals can lead to irritant conjunctivitis. This type is not contagious.
  • Foreign Bodies: Particles or foreign bodies, such as dust, dirt, or contact lenses, can cause irritation and lead to conjunctivitis.
  • Chemical Exposure: Exposure to certain chemicals or environmental hazards can cause chemical conjunctivitis. This may occur in industrial settings or due to accidental exposure to household chemicals.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Some sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, can cause conjunctivitis, especially in newborns who acquire the infection during childbirth.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: In rare cases, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) may cause inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis may include redness, itching, tearing, discharge, and sensitivity to light. The specific symptoms and treatment depend on the underlying cause. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis may require antiviral or antibiotic eye drops, respectively. Allergic conjunctivitis can be managed with antihistamines or other allergy medications. Irritant conjunctivitis often resolves once the irritant is removed.

It’s important to consult with an eye care professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If someone suspects they have conjunctivitis, they should avoid touching or rubbing their eyes, practice good hygiene, and refrain from using shared items like towels or pillowcases to prevent the spread of the condition.

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