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What Causes Conjunctivitis?

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Dr. Sean S Da Silva, Medical Superintendent, Cornea, Cataract, and Refractive surgeon, The Eye Foundation, Bangalore India, explains some facts about conjunctivitis (pink eye).

Conjunctivitis refers to the inflammation of the thin transparent layer of the eye (conjunctiva). It is a common eye infection often seen in school-going kids. It is very contagious, and can easily infect others. The infection can occur either in one eye or both. It can take up to 2 weeks to clear away.

A viral infection is the leading cause of conjunctivitis. Other than a virus, bacteria, pollen, smoke, some ingredients of the eye makeup, chlorine of the swimming pool, lens solutions and contact lenses are some of the causes of conjunctivitis.

The most common symptoms of conjunctivitis are:

  • Itching or burning sensation in one or both the eyes
  • Swelling in the eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Redness
  • Sensitivity towards light

“Contrary to the popular belief, conjunctivitis does not spread by looking at the infected eye. Touching contaminated personal items of the infected individual is the main reason for its spread. Use disposable tissues or handkerchiefs to clean the watery discharge from the eyes. Following personal hygiene and staying away from others are the best measures to stop the infection from spreading.”

Self-care tips

  • Apply warm compresses to the eyes, to ease away the discomfort. In case, you have allergic conjunctivitis, apply cold compresses.
  • Avoid touching/rubbing your eyes.
  • Stop using any eye makeup. Discard any old mascara or kajal that might have caused the infection.
  • Don’t share personal items with anyone.
  • Change your towels and handkerchiefs daily.

Your doctor might prescribe eye drops to alleviate the symptoms or other medication depending on the cause. Do not try to self-treat the condition; it could lead to further complications.

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