Viral conjunctivitis, also commonly referred to as “pink eye,” is an infection and inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a thin, clear membrane over the white part of the eye. Viruses are the most common cause of infectious conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis can cause epidemics because it is extremely contagious.
The symptoms of viral conjunctivitis include redness, irritation of the eyes, and profuse tearing. There may be a watery mucoid discharge. Itching is more commonly seen with allergic conjunctivitis but may be seen in viral conjunctivitis as well.
Viral conjunctivitis may be seen in conjunction with an upper respiratory infection. The most common virus to cause conjunctivitis is adenovirus, the same family of viruses responsible for most cases of the common cold.
Diagnosis of this condition is usually made based upon the symptoms and clinical appearance. Most cases of viral conjunctivitis will resolve within 10 days without any lasting problems. There is no specific treatment for the virus that makes it resolve any quicker. However, over-the-counter eye drops, such as artificial tears, will make the eyes more comfortable. Also, your doctor may give you a prescription eye drop to try to lessen the symptoms of redness and discomfort.
Redness and irritation of the eye may herald a more serious problem than “pink eye.”