This term indicates an increased redness of the membrane lining the white of the eyes and the inner side of the eyelids, the conjunctiva. However, to the layperson, by common usage, it immediately conjures up images of an infection of the conjunctiva or, more serious infections such as those of the cornea or the iris. Redness of the eyes may also be due to a foreign body in the conjunctiva or an accidental scratch of the cornea or conjunctiva. In most of the above conditions, in addition to the redness, there is tearing, a gritty feeling or pain in the conjunctiva and, often a yellow discharge. In the case of infections, obviously, transmission by contact with the eyes or with the fingers of the patient or even with the towels of the patient, is possible.

It may thus come as a surprise that most of the so-called “pink eyes” are really due to an allergic reaction. Allergic conjunctivitis is the term used when an allergic reaction similar to the reaction in the nose and sinuses, occur in the conjunctiva. In this condition, one need not fear transmission by contact and isolation is not necessary. There are very distinctive symptoms in allergic conjunctivitis, to distinguish this condition from those due to infections. For example, the redness is not as pronounced, itching is a prominent part of the symptoms and, usually clear tear production is more likely than yellow discharge, although, not unknown. If a ‘contact allergy’ to one of the eye drops develops, this may also present as redness and itching. This is usually due to contact allergy to some preservative commonly used in most eye drops. The tip-off is increasing redness and other symptoms, even while using effective decongestant eye drops.

Treatment depends on the cause of the conjunctivitis, obviously. Foreign body removal or local treatment of the scratches is straightforward measures. And, infections will require local treatment with antibiotics. Allergic conjunctivitis calls for local antihistamine drops and some of the preventive allergy eye drops that help control inflammation. Examples of the former are Patanol, Zaditor, Livostin and Elestat and of the latter are Alomide, Crolom, Alocril and several others. The antihistamine drops will help relieve the symptoms quickly and the latter are used for prevention of the allergy reaction. When used daily, these drops will control the inflammation and help relieve all the symptoms in a more lasting way. Of course, other treatments for the underlying allergy is essential, such as allergy testing, sometimes followed by allergy injections, coupled with environmental care and use of allergy and asthma medications. In the case of contact allergic conjunctivitis, use of drops without preservatives is the solution.

If the reader requires more information or has questions, please contact the author, P.K. Raghuprasad M.D., at

Disclaimer: The facts presented in this article and the views expressed are solely those of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Directors or other members of West Texas Physicians Alliance.