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February 6, 2019

Typically this time of the year many are battling colds, flu and other upper respiratory issues. However, recently Dr. Stewart Shofner has seen an increase of patients suffering from conjunctivitis or the disorder commonly known as “pink eye.” According to the National Eye Institute,it is estimated that about 3 million cases of pink eye occur annually in theUnited States.


“Viral conjunctivitis is just as contagious as the common cold,” says Dr. Shofner. Children and adults who don’t practice good hygiene that are in contact with others throughout the day are most likely to get pink eye from bacteria or viruses. Conjunctivitis can be diagnosed with an eye examination. Most cases resolve within 1-2 weeks, and there is usually no need for treatment or laboratory tests, unless the person’s history suggests bacterial conjunctivitis.


There are three main types of conjunctivitis: infectious, allergic and chemical. All three types are explained below along with recommended treatment.



Infectious includes viral and bacterial.

  • VIRAL. Viral conjunctivitis is often diagnosed based on a person’s history and symptoms. It tends to occur in one first and transmit to the second eye, often accompanying a common cold or respiratory tract infection. Laboratory tests usually are not needed to diagnose viral conjunctivitis; however, testing may be done if a more severe form of viral conjunctivitis is suspected.

    TREATMENT- Conjunctivitis caused by a viral infection doesn’t require specific treatment; your body fights the virus on its own. Place a clean; cool, wet washcloth over the eyes to provide some relief. As your Ophthalmologist if eyedrops are appropriate to help with redness and irritation.
  • BACTERIAL. Bacterial conjunctivitis tends to occur in one eye and may accompany an ear infection. A sample of the discharge from the affected eye may be obtained for laboratory tests to determine which type of bacteria is causing the pink eye and how best to treat it.

    TREATMENT - For bacterial infections, an ophthalmologist may prescribe antibiotic eye drops, depending on how severe your symptoms are. Antibiotics do not treat an infection caused by a virus orby allergy.


Allergic conjunctivitis tends to occur in both eyes and often accompanies allergy symptoms, such as an itchy nose, sneezing, and scratchy throat. Allergic conjunctivitis may occur seasonally when pollen counts are high, and it can cause the person’s eyes to itch intensely. A detailed health history may help determine the source of the allergic reaction.

TREATMENT-If the conjunctivitis is due to allergies, a healthcare provider may suggest certain eye drops to provide some relief.



Chemical conjunctivitis can be caused by irritants like air pollution, chlorine in swimming pools, and exposure to noxious chemicals.

TREATMENT- Careful flushing of the eyes with saline is a standard treatment for chemical conjunctivitis. People with chemical conjunctivitis also may need to use topical steroids. Severe chemical injuries, particularly alkali burns, are medical emergencies and can lead to scarring, damage to the eye or the sight,or even loss of the eye. If a chemical spills into your eye, flush the eye for several minutes with a lot of water before seeing your medical provider.


How to Prevent Pink Eye

  • Don’t touch your eyes with your hands.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Use only clean towels and washcloths.
  • Change your pillowcases often.
  • Avoid swimming in a swimming pool.
  • Use antibiotics for the complete period prescribed.

Common Pink Eye Symptoms

  • red, burning or itchy eyes
  • gritty sensation in your eye
  • watery eyes
  • puffy eye lids
  • blurry or hazy vision
  • being extra sensitive to light
  • painful eyes (usually with the bacterial type)
  • mucus, pus, or thick yellow discharge from your eye. (usually with bacterial type).


If you experience any of the symptoms listed above lasting for more than1-2 weeks, an Ophthalmologist can offer a comprehensive eye exam for a more-detailed evaluation. Conjunctivitis symptoms may also be caused from more serious issues such as: Uveitis, glaucoma, Cellulitis and others. Seek medical attention if you have signs of conjunctivitis and you have a weakened immune system from HIV infection, cancer treatment, or other medical conditions or treatments. Feel free to contact our vision care providers at Shofner Vision Center if you have questions at (615) 340-4733 or you may schedule an appointment online.


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