Written by Dr. James Lehmann on 07/24/17

Adenoviral conjunctivitis, more commonly known as “pink eye,” is a frequently encountered problem at Focal Point Vision. Adenovirus is present in the environment in over 40 subtypes, and can cause a variety of health problems including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.

When adenovirus infects the eye, the patient notices redness, tearing, itching, irritation, crusting, and sometimes eyelid swelling. Typically the infection starts in one eye, then spreads to affect the other eye within a few days. Patients may also notice a tender lymph node in front of the ear on one or both sides. Often there is a history of recently having had an upper respiratory infection or of having a friend or family member with a red eye.

The examining ophthalmologist typically notices a “lumpy bumpy” appearance of the conjunctiva called “follicular conjunctivitis” and sometimes sees swollen conjunctiva (“chemosis”) or red patches caused by broken blood vessels (“subconjunctival hemorrhage”).

Certain subtypes of adenoviral conjunctivitis are particularly severe, causing additional symptoms and termed epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, or EKC. Patients with EKC are often light sensitive and have blurred vision because of a strong reaction by the immune system in the cornea. They can also have yellowish “pseudomembranes” that form on the insides of the eyelids.

Adenovirus is highly contagious and is spread by contact with the tears, so patients should wash their hands frequently and refrain from shaking hands with other people during the infection. Like the common cold, there is no treatment that reliably shortens the course of an adenoviral infection. Treatment is geared toward relieving symptoms, and usually consists of cool compresses and cold artificial tears. In more severe cases of EKC, topical and even oral steroids are sometimes necessary to reduce inflammation. If you have any questions on Pink Eye, or any eye issues contact Focal Point Vision today: 210-614-3600