The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that covers the sclera (the white of the eye) and the inner surface of the eyelid. It protects your eyes from microorganisms and tiny foreign objects. However, some bacteria and other unwanted contaminants manage to penetrate the conjunctiva, causing disorders. Conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye, is the most common.
If you have conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the conjunctiva, you will probably notice several of these symptoms:
- Eyes that itch, burn or feel gritty
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Pink where your eyes should be white
- Light sensitivity
- Slightly blurry vision
While it is fairly easy to diagnose conjunctivitis, it’s harder to identify the specific type. The cause may be fungal, viral, bacterial or chemical. Allergies, chronic dryness or foreign bodies in the eye can also cause conjunctivitis.
If your doctor determines that your conjunctivitis is viral, you will have to wait it out. This may take a few weeks. For bacterial conjunctivitis, your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointment or eye drops. People with allergic conjunctivitis may find relief from allergy medicines, such as antihistamines or decongestants.
Newborn babies sometimes get a bacterial form of conjunctivitis, which can be very serious. If it isn’t treated immediately, permanent damage and even blindness is possible.
A bacterium called chlamydia trachomatis causes trachoma, a long-lasting infection of the conjunctiva. Trachoma most often affects children under the age of 6, and is common in dry, hot countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Australia and Asia. If antibiotics aren’t available, people suffering from trachoma may lose their vision. This contagious conjunctival disorder can be transmitted by flies, hand-eye contact or sharing contaminated objects. Sadly, this is the leading preventable cause of blindness in the world.
A pinguecula is a raised yellowish white growth on the conjunctiva. While unsightly, it poses no real danger.
A pterygium is a pink fleshy growth on the conjunctiva that can spread across the cornea. If the growth affects your vision, your ophthalmologist may suggest removing it.
This painful inflammation leads to the whites of your eyes turning purple and can seriously damage your vision. Most common among women between the ages of 30 and 50, it sometimes accompanies autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Eye doctors usually treat scleritis with corticosteroids, such as prednisone.
If a small amount of blood accumulates beneath your conjunctiva, you might experience redness over your eye, tenderness, increased light sensitivity and watery eyes. Subconjunctival hemorrhages usually disappear on their own within a couple of weeks. In rare cases, they can be serious.
If you’re suffering from pink eye or other eye problems, call us today so we can help determine your best course of action.