Conjunctivitis - Inner Eyelid Infection

Introduction

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva.  The conjunctiva is a thin film that covers the inside of your eyelids and the whites of your eyes.  There are many causes and types of conjunctivitis.  Some kinds are contagious and can occur in widespread outbreaks, including certain types of conjunctivitis that are commonly called Pink Eye.  You should contact your doctor if you suspect that you or your child has conjunctivitis.  You should not try to “self-treat” this condition.  The treatment for conjunctivitis depends on its type and cause.

Anatomy

The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that covers the inside of your eyelids and the outer layer of the white part of the eye, called the sclera.   The sclera is a tough protective coat that covers most of your eye.  Irritants are washed away from the conjunctiva by your tear system.  Tears contain enzymes and antibodies that fight bacteria.

Causes

Viruses are the most common cause of conjunctivitis.  Pink Eye is a common term for a type of contagious conjunctivitis caused by a viral infection.  Bacteria, fungus, parasites, and Chlamydia are other causes of conjunctivitis.  People that wear contact lenses, especially extended wear lenses, are susceptible to conjunctivitis.  Allergies, environmental causes, certain diseases, and chemical exposure can cause noncontagious forms of conjunctivitis. 

Symptoms

The symptoms of conjunctivitis vary according to its type.  You may have symptoms in one or both of your eyes.  A common symptom is red painful eyes.  Your eyes may produce more tears than usual.  Your eyes may produce a discharge.  Your eyes may feel gritty and burn or itch.  You may have blurred vision.  Your eyes may be sensitive to light.  Additionally, your eyelids may be inflamed and swollen.

Diagnosis

You should contact your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of conjunctivitis.  Your doctor can diagnose conjunctivitis by examining your eyes and the inside of your eyelids.  You should tell your doctor about your or your child’s symptoms.  Your doctor may swab a sample from your eye for lab testing to determine the cause of your condition. 

Treatment

The treatment that you receive for conjunctivitis depends on the type and extent of your condition.  You should not try to “self-treat” conjunctivitis.  Bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments.  Symptoms from viral conjunctivitis may be relieved with warm compresses (cloths), but antibiotics do not work on viruses.  Viruses take time to go away on their own.  Avoiding what causes the allergy, allergy treatments, and medications are methods to treat conjunctivitis caused by allergies. 
 
 
Good hygiene and household or school cleaning can help prevent contagious conjunctivitis from spreading.  It is important to wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your eyes with your hands.  You should not share eye cosmetics, hand towels, handkerchiefs, or pillows.  Clean or replace such items regularly.  Be vigilant about keeping your contact lenses clean and use only fresh contact lens solutions.

Am I at Risk

Viral conjunctivitis is very contagious.  It is important to keep your hands clean and have the person infected use separate towels or paper towels.  Do not rub your eyes as the virus is easily transmitted from the conjunctiva to your hands.


Jaffe Eye Institute PA