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Conjunctivitis is used to describe swelling of the conjunctiva, which is the thin membrane that covers the inside of your eyelids and the white part of your eye. There are two main types of conjunctivitis – viral and bacterial.
Viral eye infections are the most common cause of conjunctivitis. In these situations, a mild eyelid crust and discharge is common , along with a very watery eye. In many cases, only one eye may be affected. Viral conjunctivitis is typically contagious.
With bacterial infections, you may have increased crusting of the eyelids and a heavier discharge from the eye, and this can occur in one or both eyes.
Both of these eye infections are sometimes referred to as “pink eye.” Signs of pink eye include increased redness, of course. Also present is a sore eye with excessive mucus or pus and often a feeling that something is in the eye. The eyelid may be very swollen in the morning, and upon awakening there may be excess crusting of the eyelashes. Often a viral conjunctivitis is associated with the common cold virus and these patients may have a sore throat or other upper respiratory symptoms at the same time.
Treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis is typically with an antibiotic eye drop. Treatment of viral conjunctivitis is with medications that relieve symptoms such as swelling and itching, but there is no typical antiviral eye drop available at this time for common viral conjunctivitis. With a virus, eye symptoms can last for one to two weeks and then disappear on their own. Cool compresses can be used in addition to help alleviate symptoms, and care should be taken to avoid spreading the infection to other family members.