What is Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)?
“itis” at the end of word means “inflammation.” Thus, conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva.
Causes infectious conjunctivitis include bacteria. Most times it is difficult to distinguish between bacterial conjunctivitis and viral conjunctivitis.
Quickcare or ER?
Most times conjunctivitis can be handled in the Quickcare during regular hours.
Key Red Flags that will send you to the ER include:
- Severe pain
- vision changes
What will your doctor ask?
Your doctor will ask for your symptoms. Remember that a symptom is your description of your condition to your doctor. It is your story.
How long have you been infected?
What makes it better?
What makes it worse?
Do you have anything associated with it such as discharge (pus)?
Do you have any vision changes?
Did you injure yourself?
Did you get something inside your eye?
What will your doctor look for?
Your doctor will look for signs. Remember that a sign is an objective finding that a doctor finds on exam.
One of the first things that I notice when I enter the room is the patients’ mannerism. When a simple infectious conjunctivitis is present, most patients are comfortably sitting and waiting. However, if there is an injury, most patients are holding their affected eye while complaining of the brightness of the light.
Eye exam basics; I want to make sure that the eye ball moves around freely. Then, I make sure that the pupil constricts when exposed to my flashlight.
Then, I delve into the specifics. I always look for scratches or pieces of dirt or metal. I like using a Wood’s lamp. It shoots off a blue light which reflects a scratch or foreign body.
Your doctor may use a slit-lamp.
What is your doctor thinking?
A doctor has to consider other causes for the redness of the eyes.
The most common types of conjunctivitis include:
- foreign bodies
Contact lenses need to be considered. They are notorious for causing infections. Also, young adults who get a rapid onset of pink eye that produces lots of discharge may be suffering from gonorrhea.
What is the treatment of conjunctivitis?
Topical antibiotic drops such as Tobrex or Cipro are the norm.
For small children, I may prescribe an ointment instead of drops. It is easier to apply and tender to stay in longer.
I always tell my patients to hold off on wearing their contact lenses for at least one week.
How long will you be sick?
With most of my patients, after a 3-5 days of antibiotics, the infection resolves.
Most feel better after two days. However, I always tell my patients to complete the prescribed course.
Also, I keep patients home from work or school for a few days since it is highly contagious.
Let me tell you a story
Theresa is a very pleasant young lady. She knew her calling to be a teacher when she was a little girl. She played school during summer vacation. She was the “maestra” and all seven of her siblings were her students. She told me , ” I was tough but fair.”
Naturally, after college, she returned back to her barrio to teach at her childhood school. Like any job, there are workplace hazards. Football players can get head injuries. Soldiers can get killed. Teachers present with eye infections. Why? They are so easily spread amongst the students and faculty.
In Theresa’s case, her pink eye symptoms were a red, goopy eye for 3 days. Nothing makes it better or worse. There is no pain or vision changes associated with it.
Because she had discharge (pus) in the morning, a doctor can pretty much guess that it is “pink eye.”
Theresa was reluctant to take even 2 days off of work. Her dedication to her immigrant students was palpable. I then instructed her to not wear her contacts for at least for a week.
I hope this helps.