Eye Infections

About Eye Infections (Conjunctivitis and HSV Keratitis)

The conjunctiva is a thin, transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner eyelids and outer surface of the eye. Conjunctivitis is a medical term for inflammation of the conjunctiva commonly caused by a viral infection after a cold, flu, or other respiratory infections, but it can occur at any time and as if caused by a virus, it is highly contagious. While conjunctivitis is more common in children, it can also happen in adults. Conjunctivitis is commonly known as “pink eye” or "red eye." 


Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus; it can also be non-viral and may be caused by: 

  • Seasonal or pet allergies
  • Staphylococcus or streptococcus bacterial infections
  • Environmental toxins such as cleaning supplies or contact lens solutions
  • Sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, which can spread to a newborn via the mother during delivery.

Eye Infection-related Conditions

Conjunctivitis can be acute or chronic depending on the cause of the condition and how long it lasts. Acute conjunctivitis usually goes away in a few days, while chronic conjunctivitis can last much longer, or come back repeatedly.  

HSV Keratitis is an infection of the cornea caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus. It can look just like conjunctivitis. The cornea is the clear covering that sits on top of the colored part of the eye known as the iris. The HSV Keratitis infection can sometimes heal on its own without damaging the eye. However, more severe infections can scar the cornea or even cause blindness in the most serious cases.  


In general, conjunctivitis usually does not cause permanent vision problems, but it is important to receive prompt treatment for it. People with conjunctivitis might experience some or all the following eye symptoms:

  • Discharge–This might be watery or contain pus.
  • Redness and irritation
  • "Matting" of the eyelids–This happens when a crust forms on the lashes overnight, making it difficult to open the eyes when waking in the morning.
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pain–This might be mild or severe. Some people with conjunctivitis have no pain.
  • Itchiness
  • Burning
  • Foreign body sensation–This is when it feels like an object is stuck in the eye but there is nothing inside.

Treatments We Offer

Treatments depend on the type of conjunctivitis. Common treatments include ointments, eye drops and cold compresses to help relieve symptoms. Most types of conjunctivitis will get better in one to two weeks with treatment. 

Treatment of conjunctivitis caused by allergies or environmental toxins usually involves removing the agent that triggers the symptoms. If you have conjunctivitis caused by allergies, this might mean avoiding pollen, pet dander, or other allergens. If you have conjunctivitis caused by toxins, this might mean switching to a different contact lens solution or removing certain cleaning products at home. Children with allergic conjunctivitis might also be directed to use antihistamine/mast-cell-stabilizing eye drops to help with symptoms. 

HSV keratitis is usually treated with eye drops or oral antiviral medication. Surgery could be considered if scarring has occurred which has caused vision problems.  

Why Choose Columbia?

Columbia pediatric ophthalmologists are specially trained in diagnosing all types of eye infections. We will examine and treat your child’s eye infection so everyone can get back to normal life.