What is conjunctivitis?

08 June 2024
What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin transparent membrane that covers the front part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. This disease is often called "pink eye" because of the characteristic redness that accompanies inflammation. Conjunctivitis can occur as a result of an infection (viral or bacterial), an allergic reaction, or contact with chemical irritants.

Anatomical aspects

The conjunctiva is an important part of the eye that provides its protection and hydration. This membrane consists of two parts: the bulbar conjunctiva, which covers the white part of the eye (sclera), and the palpebral conjunctiva, which covers the inner surface of the eyelids. Thanks to its transparency, the conjunctiva does not interfere with vision and performs a number of important functions.

One of the main functions of the conjunctiva is protective. It forms a barrier against microorganisms and foreign particles, helping to prevent infections. The conjunctiva also contains lacrimal glands that produce tears that moisturize and clean the eye. Tears contain antimicrobial substances that additionally protect the eye from infections.

Conjunctival health plays a key role in maintaining overall eye health. When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, it can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as redness, itching, tearing and discharge from the eyes. If these symptoms are detected, it is important to consult a doctor for diagnosis and appropriate treatment to avoid possible complications.

Conjunctivitis is a common disease that can affect people of any age. Although it is usually not serious and can be easily treated, it is important to seek medical attention in a timely manner to prevent the spread of infection and improve the patient's quality of life.

Types of conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is caused by various viruses, usually influenza or herpes simplex viruses. It can be highly contagious and is easily transmitted through contact with infected individuals or contaminated surfaces. Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis include red, itchy, watery eyes, and sometimes discharge of pus.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually caused by bacteria such as staph or strep. It can develop independently or as a result of another infection, such as the flu or a cold. Symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis include redness, itching, tearing, and a thick discharge that may be yellowish or greenish in color.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs as a reaction to contact with allergens such as pollen, dander, or animal dander. This is typical for people with allergies, and symptoms can appear seasonally or year-round, depending on the type of allergen. Symptoms include severe itching, itching, redness and swelling.

Chronic conjunctivitis

Chronic conjunctivitis is a long-term or recurring disease that can be caused by a variety of causes, such as infection, allergies, or irritants. It can become a problem for patients who have immunodeficiency conditions or work in harmful conditions. Treatment of chronic conjunctivitis usually involves long-term therapy and regular follow-up by a doctor.

Causes of conjunctivitis

Viruses and bacteria

Viruses and bacteria are one of the main causes of conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by influenza, herpes simplex, or adenoviruses, while bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by different types of bacteria, such as staphylococci or streptococci.

Allergens (pollen, dust, animal hair)

Contact with allergens such as pollen, dander, or animal dander can also cause conjunctivitis. People who are prone to allergic reactions can react to these substances, which leads to inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Chemical irritants

Chemicals such as pool chlorine, smoke, or irritant gases can irritate the conjunctiva, causing inflammation. Contact with these substances can occur as a result of unintentional exposure, for example, during cleaning using chemical agents.

Other factors

Other factors, such as wearing contact lenses without observing the rules of hygiene, or contact with contaminated surfaces, can also lead to the development of conjunctivitis. For example, improper use or wearing of contact lenses can cause inflammation of the conjunctiva due to irritation or infection.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis

Redness of the eyes

One of the most obvious symptoms of conjunctivitis is redness of the eyes. This redness can be seen throughout the white of the eye and is often the first sign of conjunctival inflammation.


Tearing is another typical symptom of conjunctivitis. The eyes may become more watery than usual and the patient may notice that their eyes are constantly moist.

Discharge (purulent, mucous)

Discharge from the eyes may occur in conjunctivitis. This discharge may be purulent, mucous, or a combination of both. It is important to note the type of discharge when evaluating symptoms and treating accordingly.

Itching and burning

Itching and burning in the eyes can also indicate conjunctivitis. These sensations can be very unpleasant for the patient and may worsen when touching the eyes or at night.


Photophobia, or photophobia, can also occur with conjunctivitis. Patients may experience discomfort or pain when exposed to bright light and seek shade to reduce discomfort.

These symptoms can appear alone or in combination, and their detection is key to the diagnosis of conjunctivitis and appropriate treatment.

Diagnosis of conjunctivitis

Examination by an ophthalmologist

The first step in the diagnosis of conjunctivitis is an examination by an ophthalmologist. The doctor will conduct a detailed examination of the eyes, assess the condition of the conjunctiva and other symptoms of inflammation.

Laboratory analyses

If necessary, the doctor can prescribe laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause of conjunctivitis. This may include a bacterial culture to isolate the bacteria that can cause the infection, or PCR testing to detect viruses in cases of viral conjunctivitis.

Other diagnostic methods

In addition to laboratory tests, the doctor can use other diagnostic methods that will help establish the cause of conjunctivitis. For example, in cases of allergic conjunctivitis, allergy tests may be performed to determine the specific allergen causing the reaction.

These diagnostic methods help the doctor to accurately determine the type and cause of conjunctivitis, which allows you to properly prescribe treatment and select optimal measures for further management of the disease.

Treatment of conjunctivitis

Drug treatment

Drug treatment of conjunctivitis usually involves the use of different drugs depending on the type and cause of the disease. In the case of bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotics may be prescribed to fight the infection. Antiviral drugs can be used for viral conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis may require the use of antihistamines to reduce allergic reactions.

Home remedies and care

In addition to medical treatment, it is important to provide home care, which can relieve symptoms and promote a faster recovery. Warm compresses can help reduce itching and inflammation. Rinsing your eyes with saline can help remove any discharge from your eyes and reduce discomfort.

Prevention of complications

During the treatment of conjunctivitis, it is important to follow all the doctor's recommendations and avoid potential irritants that can worsen the condition of the eyes. Regular eye care can also help prevent complications.

When to consult a doctor

If symptoms of conjunctivitis persist for more than a few days or worsen, it is important to see a doctor for further evaluation and treatment. Also, if complications are suspected or new symptoms appear, seek medical attention immediately.

Prevention of conjunctivitis

Careful hygiene is one of the most important aspects of conjunctivitis prevention. Regular hand washing with soap and warm water helps to avoid transmission of infection. It is also important to use individual face towels to avoid the transfer of germs.

Avoiding contact with infected people

When in contact with people who have conjunctivitis, it is important to avoid direct contact with their eye discharge. Sharing personal items such as towels or cosmetics can also help prevent transmission.

Compliance with the rules of wearing contact lenses

People who use contact lenses must follow the rules for their use and care. This includes regular cleaning and disinfecting of lenses, as well as following recommendations for wearing and storage periods.

Eye protection from irritants

Avoid eye contact with irritants such as chemicals, smoke or allergens. Using protective glasses or masks can help prevent contact with irritants and reduce the risk of developing conjunctivitis.

Complication of conjunctivitis

Chronic forms of conjunctivitis

One of the potential complications of conjunctivitis is its transition into a chronic form. Chronic conjunctivitis can develop if the disease is not treated properly or if it often recurs. This can lead to constant discomfort and deterioration of the patient's quality of life.

Secondary infections

Conjunctivitis can be an open door to secondary infections, especially if it is caused by bacteria or viruses. In the case of incorrect or ineffective treatment, serious infections may develop that require additional medical intervention.

Effect on vision

In some cases, conjunctivitis can affect vision. Severe inflammation can lead to swelling and disturbances in tear production, which can affect visual acuity. Marked sensitivity to light and other symptoms may also cause discomfort and interfere with normal daily activities.

All these complications emphasize the importance of timely treatment and prevention of conjunctivitis, as well as regular examinations by an ophthalmologist for timely detection and control of the disease.