Conjunctivitis 一 commonly known as pink eye 一 is an irritating and contagious eye condition that affects 6 million Americans each year. It spreads quickly through school settings, making it a common issue for children, but it can affect adults too.
The good news is that conjunctivitis is treatable, and we treat it often here at Maryland Eye Care Center in Silver Spring and Hyattsville, Maryland. But repeated pink eye diagnoses are nothing short of frustrating. If you experience recurring bouts of conjunctivitis, you may wonder why.
Continue reading as our team of experts explores the causes and risk factors associated with recurrent conjunctivitis and how to prevent future episodes.
The eye has a thin, transparent layer called the conjunctiva that covers the white part of the eye and inner surface of the eyelid. With the help of a few glands, it creates the mucous layer on your eyes. The conjunctiva helps protect your eyes.
Conjunctivitis refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva. Viruses, bacteria, and allergens can all irritate and inflame this tissue. When this happens, you may notice:
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Thick discharge from the eyes
- Feelings of discomfort and irritation
Treatment depends on the type of conjunctivitis. For example, bacterial conjunctivitis may require antibiotics, but antibiotics won’t work for the other types of pink eye. Regardless, most cases resolve fairly quickly.
Common causes of recurrent conjunctivitis
The most common causes of pink eye are:
Viral conjunctivitis, often caused by adenoviruses, is highly contagious and spreads easily. If you've had viral conjunctivitis in the past, you may be more susceptible to recurrent episodes. Your immune system might not provide complete protection against viral strains.
Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenzae are common causes of bacterial conjunctivitis. If you’ve had this type before, your risk of reinfection is higher if you don’t follow hygiene practices such as handwashing and avoiding touching your eyes.
Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when your eyes react to allergens like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or certain medications. If you have a history of ocular allergies, you may be prone to recurrent allergic conjunctivitis.
Identifying and avoiding triggers, using antihistamine eye drops, and maintaining a clean environment can help manage this condition.
Exposure to irritants like smoke, pollution, or chemicals (including pool chlorine) can lead to chemical conjunctivitis, a non-contagious form. Avoid these irritants or risk recurrent conjunctivitis.
If you work in an environment where these irritants are present, taking precautions such as wearing protective eyewear can help prevent future episodes.
Improper use or poor hygiene practices related to contact lenses can increase your risk of conjunctivitis. Sleeping while wearing lenses, using expired solutions, or not cleaning your lenses regularly can harbor bacteria and cause infections.
Proper contact lens care is crucial to reducing the chances of recurrent conjunctivitis.
Prevention and management
To minimize your risk of conjunctivitis, consider these preventive measures:
Maintain good hygiene
Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your eyes, applying makeup, putting in contact lenses, or applying any eye medications. Avoid rubbing your eyes, which can introduce germs and irritants.
Avoid sharing personal items
Conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so refrain from sharing towels, pillowcases, or cosmetics with infected individuals to prevent the spread.
Managing eye allergies can help reduce recurrent bouts of pink eye related to ocular allergies. Using prescribed antihistamine eye drops and keeping your environment clean can help alleviate symptoms.
Handle contact lenses properly
If you wear contact lenses, clean and disinfect them regularly and replace them as instructed. Avoid wearing lenses when your eyes are irritated or infected.
Need help managing recurrent conjunctivitis?
If you experience recurrent conjunctivitis despite taking preventive measures, our team can help. We examine your eyes, identify underlying issues, and recommend appropriate treatment. Call the Maryland Eye Care Center location nearest you or book your appointment online today.