The conjunctiva is the frontal, outlying side of the eyeball and lies inside the eyelids. It is transparent and a mucous membrane. The conjunctiva is also called the “lymph node of the eye”, as it takes a central role in the immune surveillance of the eye. It is exposed to external influences, which can lead to a conjunctivitis.
Red eyes are a typical symptom of a conjunctivitis, also known as a pink eye. It can be caused by various reasons, such as bacterial infections (e.g. pneumococcus, staphylococcus, gonococcus), allergies, virus (usually adeno- or herpesvirus), parasites, or rare rheumatic diseases.
The transmission of the disease is dependant on the cause. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are contagious, specially when triggered by an adenovirus. A conjunctivitis caused by mechanical stimuli, allergies, or in context of a rheumatic disease are not contagious.
The symptoms of a conjunctivitis are red eye, itching, sensing dirt in your eye, and watering. Furthermore, it is possible that a bacterial infection causes sticky discharge. The symptoms may appear on one or both eyes.
The examination of the symptoms helps defining the cause of a conjunctivitis, which also grounds the treatment. Possible procedures are the use of eye drops and artificial tears, which may contain antibiotics or cortisone. Early and adequate treatment leads to a good healing process of the conjunctivitis. More serious cases, in which the cornea is affected, may lead to poor sight.
A conjunctivitis cannot be completely prevented. If a sensibility to external factors can be identified (dust, smoke, wind, allergens), they can be avoided.
A doctor should be consulted when red eyes appear to avoid further damage by a conjunctivitis.