Conjunctivitis in Children
Can be Alarming
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pinkeye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids.
Pink Eye can be alarming because it may make the eyes extremely red and can spread rapidly. But it's a fairly common condition and usually causes no long-term eye or vision damage.
Still, if your child shows symptoms of pinkeye, it's important to see a doctor. Some kinds of pinkeye go away on their own, but others require treatment..
Pinkeye can be caused by many of the bacteria and viruses responsible for colds and other infections, including ear infections, sinus infections, and sore throats and by the same types of bacteria that cause chlamydia and gonorrhea, two sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, also called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs).
Pink Eye also can be caused by allergies. These cases tend to happen more frequently among kids who also have other allergic conditions, such as hay fever. Triggers of allergic conjunctivitis include grass, ragweed pollen, animal dander, and dust mites.
Sometimes a substance in the environment can irritate the eyes and cause pinkeye, such as chemicals (chlorine, soaps, etc.) or air pollutants (smoke and fumes).
Pinkeye in Newborns
Newborns are particularly susceptible to pinkeye and can be more prone to serious health complications if it goes untreated.
If a baby is born to a mother who has an STD/STI, during delivery the bacteria or virus can pass from the birth canal into the baby's eyes, causing pinkeye. To prevent this, doctors give antibiotic ointment or eye drops to all babies immediately after birth. Occasionally, this preventive treatment causes a mild chemical conjunctivitis, which typically clears up on its own. Doctors also can screen pregnant women for STDs/STIs and treat them during pregnancy to prevent transmission of the infection to the baby.
Many babies are born with a narrow or blocked tear duct (called lacrimal duct stenosis), which usually clears up on its own. Sometimes, though, it can lead to conjunctivitis.
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