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Conjunctivitis is infection or inflammation of the thin, clear membrane that covers the surface of the eye and underside of the eyelids.

Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, by bacteria infection or by virus infection.

Allergic conjunctivitis
Allergic conjunctivitis has symptoms of redness, itchiness, and tearing. White strands of mucous may appear in the eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis usually occurs in both eyes simultaneously, although allergic conjunctivitis that is caused by contact with an allergen and eye rubbing may be caused in one eye only.

There are many new prescription medications in the form of eyedrops or anti-histamine tablets that can help with the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, so your doctor should be consulted.

Bacterial conjunctivitis
Bacterial conjunctivitis has symptoms of redness, itching and yellow or greenish mucous in the tears. It will usually occur in one eye before it spreads to the other, but may occur in both eyes at the same time. It usually does not decrease vision. Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and may be transmitted by physical contact or transfer from doorknobs, sharing towels etc.

Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis is antibiotic eyedrops. It is also recommended that sheets, pillowcases and towels that someone else may use be washed and that physical contact be avoided until the mucus discharge has resolved.

Viral conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis has symptoms of redness, watering, extreme sensitivity to light and sometimes but not usually white strands of mucous in the tear film. It will usually occur in one eye before spreading to the other, but may occur in both eyes at the same time. It usually is painful and may decreases vision. Viral conjunctivitis can be highly contagious.

There is no medicine to help viral conjunctivitis and it must be left to run its course. Good hygiene is very important and hands should be continually be washed. Patients should also avoid direct contact with other people until redness and watering start to resolve. Supportive therapy in the form of wetting eyedrops and cool compresses for symptom relief may be prescribed. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to totally clear and it may prevent patients from wearing contact lenses for as long a 6 months due to corneal problems that remain long after the original infection.