Conjunctivitis is an incredibly common condition and can be caused by a variety of things. Two of the most common causes of conjunctivitis are viral and bacterial infections.
While they share similar symptoms, such as redness and irritation in the eye, there are a few key differences between the two that are important to know.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, including the symptoms, causes and how you can get tested for what may cause them.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is inflammation of the outermost layer of the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelid. This inflammation causes the eye to appear red and/or pink.
The condition typically causes itching, burning, and redness in one or both eyes. It can also cause discharge, difficulty opening the eyelid, and sensitivity to light, depending on the severity of the infection.
While conjunctivitis can affect anyone, it’s more common among children, particularly in school settings where infections can easily spread. In addition, environmental irritants like pollen, dust, pet dander, smoke, and chlorine from swimming pools can also cause conjunctivitis.
However, for our purposes, conjunctivitis can also be caused by viral and bacterial STIs.
Bacterial infections of the eye cause bacterial conjunctivitis.
Symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis include redness, itching, and swollen eyelids. The eye may also produce a yellow, sticky discharge that can crust over and cause the eyelids to stick together. This type of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and spread easily through direct contact, such as touching an infected eye or sharing towels.
Bacterial STIs that can cause conjunctivitis include Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. These infections infect the eye when bodily fluids from an infected person come in contact with the eye. It’s also possible for someone with a Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea infection in their genitals to transfer the infection to their eye by touching their genitals and then touching their eye.
Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus that infects the eye.
Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis include redness, itching, and watery discharge from the eye. This type of conjunctivitis can also cause sensitivity to light. Unlike bacterial conjunctivitis, viral conjunctivitis can spread through large respiratory tract droplets, making transmission through acts like coughing or sneezing more likely.
Herpes Simplex viruses are the main STIs that can cause viral conjunctivitis. Just like the infections that cause bacterial conjunctivitis, a case of viral conjunctivitis can occur when bodily fluids from an infected person enter the eye. This can also occur through touch if, for example, an infected person touches an open sore and then touches another person’s hand, who then goes on to touch their eye.
In summary, while bacterial and viral conjunctivitis share similar symptoms, they have different causes and can require different treatments. Therefore, identifying the cause of your conjunctivitis is important to help you choose the most appropriate tests and effective treatment.
If you have conjunctivitis and suspect that you may have been exposed to an STI, you should get tested. At Better2Know, our STI testing services are confidential, efficient, and reliable. Contact us today and take control of your sexual health.