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Conjunctivitis is the redness and inflammation of the conjunctiva (a translucent mucous membrane lining of the eye). It is defined as the increase in vascular blood flow (hyperaemia), which is also associated with watery discharge mucoid, mucopurulent or purulent.


The etiology of conjunctivitis is due to bacterial, viral, chlamydial or allergic origin. The following primary types of conjunctivitis are caused due to:

Viral conjunctivitis: It is a self-limiting condition, which is highly contagious and associated with petechial hemorrhages. Causative organisms are adenovirus, enterovirus, echovirus, coxsackie virus.

Bacterial conjunctivitis: It is also a very common self-limiting condition, which is very common in children. Causative organisms are staphylococcus, streptococcus haemolyticus, moraxella axenfeld.

Allergic/Vernal keratoconjunctivitis: It is also known as spring catarrh and seen in children especially boys aged between 5-15 years old. It is caused by eye irritants (allergens) such as pollen, dust and animal dander. Thus, the reaction is mediated by IgE and mast cell mediators.

Trachoma: It is a specific type of kerato-conjunctivitis caused by chlamydia trachomatis. Seen in areas of poverty, poor hygiene practices or overcrowding places.

If you suffer from any of these causes talk to a doctor to take preventive measures.


Symptoms of conjunctivitis are conjunctival congestion, foreign body sensation, mild photophobia (discomfort to eye due to light exposure), irritation and discomfort to eye, discharge, blurring of vision and halos are some of them.

Viral conjunctivitis - Watery, itchy eyes, photophobia and blurring of vision of one or both eyes. Highly contagious. On examination pre-auricular lymphadenopathy is seen.

Bacterial conjunctivitis - It is also contagious. Symptoms are redness, grittiness, discharge. On further examination, there is congestion of conjunctiva as seen in the corners of eye and are associated with purulent discharge.

Allergic conjunctivitis - Most common symptom is itching, which is associated with ropy discharge. On clinical examination typical signs are seen, cobblestone appearance and horner trantas spots are present.

Trachoma- Keratoconjunctivitis seen in children <5 years of age. On examination typical sago grain follicles (collection of lymphocytes) are seen in the upper tarsal conjunctiva. Intense inflammation, scarring of conjunctiva, trichiasis (introversion of eye lashes), corneal ulcers, corneal opacity obscuring vision and dry eyes are the most common symptoms.


Viral conjunctivitis requires self-limiting condition. In most cases, viral conjunctivitis will continue its course for a period. So, it resolves spontaneously over a period of time. Few cases are treated with topical steroids. Most importantly, hand hygiene and surface disinfection practices are important.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is also self-limiting. Local antibiotics and lubricants are prescribed. Face cleanliness and hand hygiene practices are must.

Allergic conjunctivitis- Acute episodes are treated with topical steroids and antihistamines.

Trachoma - SAFE strategy:

S: Sugery

A: Antibiotics

F: Face cleanliness

E: Environmental hygiene.

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