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What is Conjunctivitis?

by S. Jafar Hasan, M.D.

Conjunctivitis (commonly called "pink eye") is a condition where the eyes look pink or red. This may be associated with a yellowish or greenish discharge. Other symptoms may include mild swelling of the lids, tearing, and irritation.

What causes conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis in children can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergies, and chemicals. In the pediatric population, bacterial conjunctivitis has shown to be much more of a factor in causing conjunctivitis than in the adult population. Bacterial conjunctivitis is associated with significant amounts of discharge, often with the lashes getting crusted. Viral conjunctivitis usually has less discharge and is often associated with an upper respiratory infection. Bacterial infections may secondarily affect the eyes along with a viral infection. Both types of infections are contagious and can be community acquired. Allergic conjunctivitis is associated with tearing, itching, and swelling. Children with allergic conjunctivitis often have a history of allergies or asthma.

Other causes of a "pink eye" include chemical irritation (i.e. cleaning products), trauma, foreign bodies, and blocked tear ducts.

How is conjunctivitis treated?
Bacterial conjunctivitis should be treated with antibiotic drops or ointment. This helps to clear the symptoms more rapidly and to limit the spread of infection. Viral conjunctivitis does not respond to antibiotics. Allergic conjunctivitis improves with allergy eye drops, artificial tears, and cold compresses.

Children with bacterial conjunctivitis may return to school or daycare after at least 24 hours on an antibiotic drop, if the discharge is minimal. Frequent hand washing and cleansing/removal of discharge are also recommended to prevent spread of the infection.

Call your doctor if your child has a red eye and:
• Large amounts of discharge
• Child is looking or acting sick
• Eyelid is swollen
• Vision is blurry
• Eye pain is significant
• Has a fever
• Age of less than 1 year old
• Tearing is prominent or chronic
• Symptoms are not getting better

S. Jafar Hasan, M.D.
Pediatric Ophthalmology
Edina Eye Physicians & Surgeons P.A.
7450 France Ave. S. Suite 100
Edina, MN 55435

Categories: Children's Health, Health & Wellness,

Tags: , ,
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