Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis
Conjunctivitis is an inflammatory condition of the outer lining of the eye in which the outer part of the eye becomes red and irritated. Often there is an associated discharge. Common causes of conjunctivitis are viral, bacterial, and allergic. Most cases of viral conjunctivitis are caused by the same “cold virus” that causes a common cold, but instead of the virus infecting the mucous membrane lining of the nose and throat, it infects the mucous membrane lining of the eye. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious through direct contact with the tears. It is diagnosed by examination. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by a number of infectious organisms. It is diagnosed by examination and by obtaining a culturespecimen. It is transmitted by direct contact and can be treated with antibiotics. Allergic conjunctivitis produces a red, irritated eye that itches. The itching is the clinical sign that allows for the diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis.

Living with Your Diagnosis
Conjunctivitis produces a red, irritated eye with either a watery discharge (allergic and viral) or a mucopurulent discharge (bacterial). Conjunctivitis causes local discomfort and irritation. Serious sight-threatening consequences are extremely rare.

Viral conjunctivitis is treated symptomatically. Just as there is no “cure” for a common cold, there is no “cure” for viral conjunctivitis. Cool compresses often relieve the associated itching and burning. Topical decongestant drops can also provide relief. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with systemic (oral) allergy medications or topical eye drops specifically designed for allergic conjunctivitis. Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with topical antibiotic eye drops. Although eye drops can cause local stinging and irritation, there are no significant side effects or complications associated with treatment of conjunctivitis.

The DOs
• Medications should be used as directed. If using more than one eye drop, wait five minutes between instilling each drop so that the second drop does not “wash” the first drop out.
• Patients with conjunctivitis should wash their hands frequently to avoid transmitting their infection to the other eye, as well as to friends and family members.

The DON’Ts
• Patients with conjunctivitis should avoid touching their eyes and should not share towels, pillow cases, and other personal belongings with others, because the infection can be transmitted this way.

When To Call Your Doctor
If your conjunctivitis is associated with:
• severe pain, fever or blurred vision.