Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is a common eye infection that affects many people. The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) estimates that about six million Americans experience pink eye every year. According to Dr. Tom Chang, pink eye is one of the most common eye infections that he treats as a practicing ophthalmologist. Tom Chang MD explains that conjunctivitis is essentially the swelling of the eyeball’s outer membrane.
He also distinguishes infectious conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis, explaining that most contagious conjunctivitis cases usually do not require treatment. However, 30 percent of conjunctivitis cases progress to bacterial conjunctivitis and eventually require treatment.
Tom Chang, MD on the Symptoms of Pink Eye
“One of the biggest challenges that come with dealing with bacterial conjunctivitis is that it is highly contagious,” says Tom Chang, MD. The symptoms of conjunctivitis need to be monitored closely to prevent transmission to third parties. Dr. Chang has identified some of the most common conjunctivitis symptoms for easy diagnosis.
Redness or Pinkness of the Eye
Redness is one of the most apparent symptoms of pink eye. If you notice a persistent reddish tint in your eye, you may need to visit a medical center to have it checked as soon as possible to prevent spread.
Increased Tear Production
Increased tear production is another common symptom of pink eye. In most pink eye cases, the eye begins to overproduce tears due to the irritation caused by the condition.
Thick or Watery Discharge at Night
Pink eye is also associated with thick or watery eye discharge, which builds up during sleep and forms a sometimes painful crust around the eye. This discharge may contain pus or mucus.
Feeling Like There Is a Foreign Body in the Eye
Patients with pink eye may begin to feel like there is some foreign body in their eyes, making them itch their eyes.
Tom Chang, MD, explains that most cases of pink eye present themselves with these symptoms. However, he remarks that in situations where the patient has underlying medical issues, pink eye may present in more complex ways. Dr. Chang advises any patients who suspect they may have contracted the infection to act on their suspicions by seeing a physician.
Causes of Pink Eye
Tom Chang mentions that if more people were aware of the possible causes of pink eye, there might be a reduced infection rate. Dr. Chang mentions that some common causes of conjunctivitis include allergies, chemical exposure, viruses, or bacteria.
Seasonal infections cause some conjunctivitis cases. Tom Chang, MD explains that pollen, dust mites, or animal dander may cause conjunctivitis in some people. In cases where patients develop conjunctivitis symptoms in special weather conditions, there is a likelihood that their conjunctivitis may result from allergies. It is essential to mention that there are four major types of allergic conjunctivitis: seasonal conjunctivitis, perennial conjunctivitis, contact keratoconjunctivitis, and giant papillary conjunctivitis. According to Tom Chang, MD patients can manage allergic conjunctivitis with some conscious avoidance of triggers and medication.
Viruses and Bacteria
Viruses are also responsible for causing conjunctivitis. The same virus that is responsible for the common cold is, in most cases, also responsible for conjunctivitis. This particular type of conjunctivitis is highly contagious but clears up relatively quickly. Bacteria is also a major cause of pink eye; when bacterial infections are not treated, conjunctivitis may become more severe.
Tom Chang, MD, explains that some of the more common bacteria responsible for causing conjunctivitis include Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumonia, Chlamydia Trachomatis Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Dr. Chang explains that people may be exposed to these bacteria in any number of ways. He emphasizes that bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and should be treated as soon as possible.
Also, he mentions that conjunctivitis can sometimes result from sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhea, for instance, can, in some rare cases, cause a dangerous form of bacterial conjunctivitis. Chlamydia may also cause conjunctivitis.
Chemical exposure is another common cause of chlamydia. Foreign substances and chemical splashes are relatively common causes of conjunctivitis. Common home chemicals like chlorine, which is found in backyard swimming pools, may cause pink eye.
Treatment of Conjunctivitis
Fortunately, pink eye can is treatable when diagnosed. Tom Chang, MD, explains that the treatment of conjunctivitis usually depends on its cause.
Most cases of infective conjunctivitis are not treated because the condition usually clears up by itself. Tom Chang, MD, explains that bacterial conjunctivitis is generally treated with antibiotic ointment or eye drops. In some cases, oral antibiotics may be prescribed as a more aggressive approach. Dr. Chang further explains that, in most cases, chloramphenicol or fusidic acid are preferred choices for treatment. He explains that both of these antibiotics come in eye drops and are easy to apply.
Tom Chang, MD, explains that antihistamines treat allergic conjunctivitis. Antihistamine eye drops are favored for treating allergic conjunctivitis because they are easy to administer. He mentions that antazoline with xylometazoline is a common over-the-counter eye drop used to manage allergic conjunctivitis. Dr. Chang explains that antihistamines work by blocking the histamines’ actions that the body releases when it thinks it is under attack from an allergen.
Foreign/Chemical Exposure Conjunctivitis
In most conjunctivitis cases where a foreign object is involved or where there has been exposure to chemicals, the eyes usually clear up after the item is removed. However, if the eye has been exposed to a harmful substance, such as bleach, the patient may need to be rushed to the hospital to be washed with saline solution.
The Conclusion From Tom Chang, MD
Tom Chang, MD encourages people to check their symptoms if they suspect that they have contracted conjunctivitis. However, he emphasizes that conjunctivitis tends to clear up on its own in most cases. Tom Chang, MD is a managing partner of the Acuity Eye Group. He is a renowned academic, clinician, and surgeon. Tom Chang, MD has given more than 120 lectures around the world and published 50 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Chang has focused his career on providing patients with new information on eye-related issues.