The most common types of conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, a transparent membrane that covers the white part of the surface of the eye. It can appear at any age, and the symptoms are a red eye, discomfort, itchiness and constant tears. Treatment involves using a cold physiological saline eyewash and eyedrops depending on the cause.
1. Infectious conjuntivitis
The infection may be caused by bacteria or a virus.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is provoked by direct eye contact with infected secretion. The patient presents a red eye, discomfort and mainly thick secretion that may be yellowish or greenish. When the patient wakes up, their eyelids are often stuck together and it is difficult to open them. Antibiotic eyedrops must be used as treatment.
Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can breed in places where many people come together, like schools, causing outbreaks. It is spread through the air or by sharing towels and bed sheets that have been contaminated with secretion. Conjunctivitis usually clears up in one or two weeks. Antibiotic eyedrops must be used to prevent a secondary infection caused by bacteria and, if the eye is very inflamed, using anti-inflammatory steroid eyedrops is a great help.
Figure 1. Bacterial conjunctivitis. Figura 2. Conjuntivitis vírica.
2. Allergic conjuntivitis
The most notable symptom of allergic conjunctivitis is itchiness. There are four types of allergic conjunctivitis.
- 2.1. Allergic seasonal and perennial conjunctivitis
This is the most frequent form of eye allergy and is typically accompanied by rhinitis. Seasonal conjunctivitis is related to the pollination cycles of allergenic plants, usually in spring and summer. Perennial conjunctivitis, as its name indicates, is present all year round, although seasonal exacerbations may present themselves. In these cases, mites and fungus in humid conditions are usually the allergens. Treatment to alleviate this type of conjunctivitis includes anti-histamine medication and topic mast cell stabilisers. In severe cases, topic steroids are required. It is advisable to see an allergist so you can to take tests that will determine which allergen causes your allergic conjunctivitis.
- 2.2. Vernal conjuntivitis
This is a chronic bilateral allergic conjunctivitis that generally affects children under 10 years old. Around half of these patients suffer an immediate reaction or have a relative that has it. The symptoms are itchiness, red eyes and constant tears. In the most severe cases, a corneal ulcer accompanied by reduced vision may appear. Treatment is the same as allergic seasonal and perennial conjunctivitis although it is common that in these cases the illness is more difficult to control. By adolescence, this type of conjunctivitis usually improves and may even go away.
Figura 3. Conjuntivitis alérgica. Figura 4. Conjuntivitis vernal.
- 2.3. Atopic conjuntivitis
This is a chronic conjunctivitis that affects patients aged 20-50, almost half of whom suffer atopic dermatitis. The symptoms are the same as vernal conjunctivitis although they are more severe, as in this case corneal affectation is more frequent, which causes a loss of vision.
- 2.4. Giant papillary conjuntivitis
This is an allergic conjunctivitis associated with using contact lenses or ocular prostheses. It can be treated by discontinuing their use.
Figura 5. Conjuntivitis papilar gigante.