Conjunctivitis (or Pink Eye), which we have covered in past posts is often viral conjunctivitis. It is a condition that will go away on its own in about 10 to 14 days, when your immune system recognizes it as a virus and sends out the appropriate antibodies to kill it.
Treating Viral Conjunctivitis
Of course, it's an uncomfortable period of time for your eyes and is highly contagious. We have a novel treatment approach to viral conjunctivitis that must be done in office (don't ever try to treat viral conjunctivitis at home the way we do it) with iodine and anesthetic.
Many patients find relief at home through palliative care–cold compresses, and lubricant eye drops that are preservative-free help soothe the irritated eye while the viral infection runs its course.
But if you suspect you have conjunctivitis of any sort, you should not assume that it is viral. Half of the cases we see in our office are viral and will go away on their own...but the other half are not, and have more complicated causes that must be assessed by a qualified therapeutic professional. The other half of these cases, left untreated, can lead to complications.
There is one serious complication that should motivate you to get a proper diagnosis – the possibility of going blind. Conjunctivitis can cause corneal inflammation – this can affect vision. Don't risk losing vision or winding up on a waiting list for corneal transplants – no kidding. Protecting your vision shouldn't be guesswork.
Another annoying complication of conjunctivitis is the possibility of reinfection if preventive measures are not followed. In other words, you can get it again, spread it to your other, previously uninfected eye, and spread it to others if you don't follow good preventive procedures.
Preventive procedures to keep conjunctivitis away include good hygienic practices – change your pillowcases frequently, keep your hands away from your eyes, and good hand washing practices will help minimize risk of reinfection. Other proper hygiene practices that will reduce the risk of conjunctivitis spreading include proper handling and cleaning of contact lenses, avoid sharing eye cosmetics, novelty contact lenses, and towels or handkerchiefs. Additionally, regular replacement of eye cosmetics is helpful in reducing bacterial growth and inadvertent reinfection of the eye.
Complications caused by poor hygienic measures are some of the most common complications seen in our office, and can be avoided entirely with preventive measures.
If you have been diagnosed with conjunctivitis, avoid complications right away by doing the following:
- make a habit of hand washing
- replace all eye cosmetics, don't share with others
- discuss getting new contact lenses or how to properly clean the old ones (which may or may not be a possibility)
- avoid sharing towels and handkerchiefs, use disposable tissues and put used towels the wash right away
- stop using anything near the eye until the symptoms are cleared up, then buy new items to replace them, such as new mascara or eye drops
If you think you might have conjunctivitis, don't wait for it to go away on its own.
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