Conjunctivitis: when to see an optometrist

You may have found yourself wondering at one point or another if a bothersome irritation of your eye or perhaps something that feels more serious warrants an appointment with your optometrist. There are a few types of emergencies that you may encounter and there are several symptoms you should look out for to ensure your condition is diagnosed and treated effectively. Conjunctivitis, Uveitis, and Retinal Detachment are three main eye emergencies to be on the lookout for. This blog post will cover Conjunctivitis.

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common irritations of the eye; it is more commonly known as pink eye. It is a form of inflammation of the outside layer of the eye as well as the inner portion of the eyelid. It’s often called pink eye because the eye will appear pinkish or red in color. There may also be swelling as well as itchiness or discharge. If you haven’t had pink eye yet you most likely know someone who has. There are four main types of conjunctivitis; viral, bacterial, allergic and chemical.

pink eye - conjunctivitis

It is not unusual for viral conjunctivitis to begin when you have any type of cold or respiratory infection. It can also spread from one person to another. This type of conjunctivitis is typically not harmful and can clear up without any treatment though it may take some time. It will generally clear within one to two weeks without the use of antibiotics but it can take up to 3 weeks to fully dissipate. Often non-prescription eye drops and compresses will be used to help with any discomfort that is experienced.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis is also quite common and occurs when the eye is contaminated with bacteria. It can also be transmitted from person to person as well as through the touching of contaminated surfaces and the subsequent touching of the eye. With this type of infection there may be a discharge that can be thick in nature. Antibiotics are required to rid the body of the infection and generally treatment will come in the form of eye drops. The severity of the infection will factor in to how long treatment make take; typically it will be one to two weeks for it to fully clear up. If you suspect bacterial conjunctivitis you should make an appointment with your eye care specialist.

Allergic conjunctivitis is also commonly experienced and will be little more than a nuisance to most people. Allergies affect a large portion of the population and often times irritated, watery, and itchy eyes come alongside seasonal or year round allergies. Much like viral conjunctivitis there is no treatment necessary or available, but symptoms like itchy watery and swollen eyes can be managed with the use of antihistamine drops as well as trying to avoid certain allergen triggers.

Chemical pink eye is caused when a foreign substance such as chlorine from swimming pools, fumes, soaps, or any sort of chemicals makes contact with the eye. Symptoms range from redness, pain, swelling, and difficulty seeing. It is important that the substance is rinsed as thoroughly as possible from the eye and that an evaluation by an optometrist is completed to ensure vision and health of the eye have not been compromised. In most cases rinsing the eye will be all that is required but it is best to have that confirmed by your optometrist in case there is further ocular involvement that requires medical treatment.