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Looking into the Eye 

Often passed off as just another “eye irritation”, “Pink eye” or viral conjunctivitis is actually an infection that occurs commonly among all genders, all ages, and all countries. 

Pink Eye, as the colloquial term implies, presents as discoloration of the eye from red to pink, with consequent itchiness, pronounced production of tears, and mattering (term used to describe the joining together of both eyelids due to production of more eye discharge, usually in the morning). Patients may also feel a grainy or sandy sensation when blinking. 

Patients with adenoviral conjunctivitis may have a history of recent exposure to an individual with a red eye at home, school, or work, or they may have a history of recent symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection. The eye infection may be unilateral or bilateral.

Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, usually for 10-12 days from onset as long as the eyes are red. Patients should avoid touching their eyes, shaking hands, and sharing towels, napkins, pillow cases, and other fomites, among other activities. Transmission may occur through accidental inoculation of viral particles from the patient’s hands or by direct eye contact with infected upper respiratory droplets, fomites, or contaminated swimming pools. The infection usually resolves spontaneously within 2-4 weeks.

As the name implies, this illness is caused by a virus. Hence, antibiotics – whether optic drops, topical or oral – play no role in eradicating the symptoms caused by such infection. However, if there is sudden presence of muco-purulent discharge as seen in wounds or boils, a consultation with an ophthalmologist should be done as soon as possible, to address a probably bacterial superinfection on top of the viral component of pink eye.  Bacterial conjunctivitis may also involve swelling of both eyelids and enlarged lymph nodes. 

BSM Medical Centre

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