Inflammation or infection of the membranes of the eye (conjunctiva) is called “conjunctivitis”. The conjunctiva is the moist, delicate membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the whites of the eye.
Conjunctivitis also known as pink eye is usually caused by allergies, bacteria, viruses or chemicals. Viral infection is the most common cause; other types include bacterial, Chlamydia, fungal and parasitic agent (rarely). Pink eye is specific disease caused by a bacterium (one of the Hemophilus types of bacteria). Viral and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are highly contagious, and can spread among children very rapidly, some times causing local epidemics. Other causes are allergies (allergic conjunctivitis), chemical exposure, and certain systemic diseases.
Newborn can be infected by bacteria in the birth canal. This condition is called “ophthalmia neonatorum” and must be treated immediately to preserve sight. Use of contact lenses, particularly extended- wear lenses, is a risk factor for conjunctivitis.