What is conjunctivitis?
The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that covers the inner surface of the eyelids and the white part of the eye. When this is the site of inflammation, it is called conjunctivitis. There are three main types of conjunctivitis: viral conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis and allergic conjunctivitis (read below).
In babies, conjunctivitis is characterized by a red, watery eye. It is an extremely common and benign eye condition in children 0 to 2 years old. On the other hand, conjunctivitis of the newborn, it constitutes a therapeutic emergency. It appears during the first four weeks of life and is accompanied by noisy symptoms: very red eyes, purulent secretions. It is generally due to bacterial contamination – gonococci or chlamydia – during childbirth. “If neonatal conjunctivitis has become rare since the systematic instillation of eye drops at birth, it is an ophthalmological emergency because it can cause blindness,” says Dr. Bui Quoc. Treatment is based on the prescription of antibiotics (local or systemic). “
What are the symptoms ?
Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis
The viral conjunctiva is characterized by a red eye (or both), sometimes with itching and clear, profuse tearing.
Symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis
Bacterial conjunctivitis associates a red eye with purulent eye discharge. Eyelashes are often stuck in the morning.
Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis
Unlike the conjunctiva of viral or bacterial origin which is unilateral or bilateral, i.e. which affects one or both eyes, allergic conjunctivitis is most often bilateral, i.e. which affects both eyes. “On examination, there is tearing, itching and swelling of the eyelid,” says Dr. Bui Quoc. It is most often accompanied by other disorders of allergic origin such as asthma, eczema, rhinitis, etc. “
What are the causes ?
Conjunctivitis is very common in babies and children. About one in eight children have conjunctivitis each year. “Baby’s conjunctivitis is favored by the fact that the nasal tear duct is not very permeable at this age. This inability to flow causes stagnation of tears on conjunctivitis and promotes superinfection of the eye membranes with germs, explains Dr. Bui Quoc. The very frequent nasopharyngeal infections in young children also lead to obstruction of the nasal lacrimal duct and a stasis which makes the bed of infectious conjunctivitis ”. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an allergen. Animal hair? Pollens? Dust mites? Difficult to identify the culprit! “In front of the important forms which really annoy the young child, it can arise the question of making an assessment with an allergist in order to detect the specific allergen, explains the ophthalmologist. But, in general, symptomatic treatment with antihistamic eye drops is sufficient ”.
When to consult?
Conjunctivitis in the baby is not a reason for emergency consultation with the pediatrician. While waiting to see your doctor, you can clean his eyes with physiological saline.
What to do in the face of recurrent conjunctivitis?
Recurrent conjunctivitis may be a sign of obstruction of the tear duct, a conduit that allows the discharge of secretions from the eye to the nasal passages. If your child is in this case, a consultation with the ophthalmologist is necessary. “Usually things sort out on their own as the child gets older. But, while waiting for the canal to unblock spontaneously, it is important to thoroughly clean his eyes several times a day to limit stasis and the risk of infection ”. If the problem persists, the specialist may perform a probing under local anesthesia or a small surgical procedure under general anesthesia to unclog the canal.
The treatment is based on cleaning the eyes with physiological saline or boiled water and administering eye drops, the composition of which varies depending on the etiology of the conjunctivitis. Thus, the doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops for bacterial conjunctivitis and antihistamic eye drops for allergic conjunctiva.
How to clean your baby’s eyes?
“Using a clean compress, clean the eye and eyelids from the inside outwards several times a day,” recalls the ophthalmologist. By taking care to change the compress for each eye ”.
How to put eye drops on my baby?
Are you having trouble putting drops in your baby’s eyes? Do not panic ! “The child should be lying down – for example, take advantage of it being on the changing table – head towards you, advises the ophthalmologist. Then apply a drop of eye drops by gently pulling the lower eyelid. You can also use this method to clean his eyes ”.
What are the complications of conjunctivitis?
If bacterial superinfection is the most common complication of conjunctivitis, it can also progress to an infection of the lacrimal sac called dacryocystitis. “It presents in the form of a red and painful swelling between the wing of the nose and the inner corner of the eye, specifies the specialist. It is often the consequence of an obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct. The treatment is based on the prescription of oral antibiotics and the application of hot compresses ”.