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Conjunctivitis | Overview

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. The conjunctiva consists of the membrane that lines the inside of the eye as well as a thin membrane that covers the actual eye.

  • Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, bacteria or a virus — even herpes.
  • The condition is characterized by itchy, red and watery eyes and occasional swelling of the eyelid. There may also be a visible, stringy discharge.
  • Since there is no cure for allergic conjunctivitis, avoiding the irritant is the best way to manage the condition. Applying cold compresses to your child's eyes may also help with the itching and swelling.

Conjunctivitis | Symptoms and Causes

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. The conjunctiva consists of the membrane that lines the inside of the eye as well as a thin membrane that covers the actual eye.

What causes conjunctivitis?

There are many causes of pink eye, including the following:

In this section, only allergic conjunctivitis will be addressed.

What are the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis?

Each child may experience symptoms differently, but the most common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include:

  • itchy eyes
  • watery discharge
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • redness of the eyes
  • stringy discharge from the eyes

Conjunctivitis | Testing and Diagnosis

How is allergic conjunctivitis diagnosed?

A diagnosis of conjunctivitis is usually made based on a complete medical history and physical examination. Allergic conjunctivitis does not typically involve taking cultures of eye drainage.

Conjunctivitis | Treatments

Since there's no cure for allergic conjunctivitis, avoiding the irritant is the best way to manage the condition. Applying cold compresses to your child's eyes may also help with the itching and swelling.

Your child's physician may prescribe the following medications to help with the symptoms:

  • an atihistamine to help decrease histamine release, which may help decrease itchy, watery eyes; these medications may make your child drowsy
  • non-sedating antihistamines (Zyrtec or Claritin, for example), which work like antihistamines but without the side effect of making your child drowsy
  • eye drops to help relieve the itching and redness

Conjunctivitis | Programs & Services