Pink eye or conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, a layer of tissue that covers the eyeball and reflects back forming the inner layer of the eyelid. It is one of the commonest non-traumatic eye presentations in the emergency department. It constitutes about 1% of primary care practitioner office visits in the United States and affects approximately 6 million people every year.
Conjunctivitis can occur when the infectious agent adheres to the conjunctiva. Classification of conjunctivitis is based on the offending pathogen, age of occurrence, or progression of disease. Most cases of conjunctivitis will resolve spontaneously. However, depending on the immune status of the affected individual and offending pathogen, it can sometimes lead to severe infections that threaten vision. Conjunctivitis can affect all individuals regardless of age or gender. Let’s explore some of the common causes, symptoms and treatments of pink eye:
Pink Eye Cause #1: Viral Conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by the adenovirus. Other viruses that can cause pink eye are the varicella zoster virus, herpes simplex virus, picornavirus (such as certain strains of coxsackie and enterovirus), poxvirus (such as vaccinia virus and molluscum contagiosum), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Conjunctivitis that is caused by a viral infection is very contagious. Contagion starts from the onset for as long as 10 to 12 days as long as the eyes remain pink or red. To prevent spread and transmission, patients should avoid touching their eyes and contact with others. The infection will usually resolve on its own within two to four weeks.