Understanding Conjunctivitis

A fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Dr. William Martin currently treats patients at OptiVue in Toledo, Ohio. Dr. William Martin serves as the medical director and chief surgeon of the Toledo group practice, where he and his colleagues treat the full spectrum of eye conditions, including the infection conjunctivitis.

Commonly called “pinkeye,” conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the membrane lining the inside of the eyelid. Symptoms of the condition include watering, burning, and itching eyes, as well as redness in the whites of the eyes. Patients may also experience a white, green, or yellow discharge from the eyes that forms a crust during sleep. This common infection can be viral or bacterial in nature, and it can also be caused by allergens, such as dust or pollen, and chemical irritants, such as shampoo or smoke.

Treatment for conjunctivitis varies, depending on its cause. Bacterial pinkeye is easily treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Viral conjunctivitis is akin to a cold in the eye and has to run its course like a common cold. If an irritant caused the condition, rinsing the eyes with cool water should remove the offending substance, but patients should see an ophthalmologist if the inflammation doesn’t clear up within a few hours. For allergic conjunctivitis, treating the underlying allergy with antihistamines or other medications will improve the eye condition as well.