Conjunctivitis is a term describing inflammation of the superficial tissue (conjunctiva) of the eye. It can be either infectious or non-infectious. Infectious causes can be viral or bacterial. Non-infectious causes include allergies, chemical irritation, physical injury or foreign bodies, or certain systemic diseases. These must be differentiated from infectious causes since the treatments are completely different, and if the wrong treatment is ordered, the condition can worsen.
Viral conjunctivitis is the most common type of infectious conjunctivitis. It is frequently bilateral and transmitted by hand-to-eye touch from infected surfaces. Adenovirus is the most common culprit and is treated with strict hygiene measures and symptomatic treatment. Since it is highly contagious through touch, protect household contacts by not sharing towels, clothing, or bedding, washing hands frequently, and avoiding touching the face. Other more serious viral infections include herpes simplex and varicella-zoster. These infections need specialty consultation and patients often need antiviral medication.
Bacterial conjunctivitis can spread from person to person in many ways. These include hand-to-eye contact, eye contact with contaminated objects, sexual encounters with eye to genital contact, or vertically from mother to baby. Bacteria can also spread by large respiratory tract droplets. Respiratory pathogens such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Haemophilus influenzae are common causes of bacterial conjunctivitis. Other potentially serious causes are Escherichia coli, Chlamydia trachomatis, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
Diagnosing the type of conjunctivitis can be challenging since the signs and symptoms of causes overlap. The ability to quickly determine the presence of specific pathogens can guide care and expedite specialty referral if necessary.
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Our experts assist clinicians and health care providers in rapidly identifying the pathogens and underlying causes of disease. We know that fast and accurate diagnoses lead to better patient outcomes.