The 3 Types of Conjunctivitis: What You Should Know

Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva – the thin covering of the white part of your eye and inside of your eyelids. It is most often caused by bacterial or viral infections, such as a common cold or respiratory infection. However, it can also be the result of an allergic reaction to a chemical or a seasonal allergen.

Your Symptoms May Include:

  • Swollen eyelids
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Red or pink coloring
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Itching or burning sensation

There are three types of conjunctivitis: allergic, bacterial and viral.

Allergic Conjunctivitis
Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by seasonal irritants, such as mold, dust, pollen, and occasional dander from animals. Because this type is allergy-based, it is not contagious. Allergy medications can be used to help prevent or shorten the length of the condition. You can also use a cool soak to help soothe any irritation.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis
Bacterial conjunctivitis usually occurs in only one eye and may be treated with antibiotic eye drops. However, it can become more serious if left untreated. This type of conjunctivitis can also occur with an ear infection.

Viral conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis tends to occur in both eyes and typically lasts 1-3 weeks. It can also occur alongside a cold or respiratory tract infection. While tests are often not needed to diagnose viral conjunctivitis, your doctor may request further testing if your case is more severe.

While allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious, both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are highly infectious. If you have been around someone with either type, it’s important to take the following precautions to avoid contracting the infection:

  • Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap
  • Avoid sharing any makeup, washcloths, hand towels, etc.
  • Always cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes
  • Take proper care of your glasses, contact lens and lens case

To avoid re-infection:

  • Replace your contacts, contact lens case, and bottle of solution
  • Dispose of any makeup or applicators you used

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed, contact your doctor right away to seek proper treatment. While most cases are mild and will resolve on their own, your doctor can tell you which antibiotics may be needed to improve the process.

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