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Conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye because the white part of the eye becomes pink) is inflammation (swelling) of the mucous membrane lining the eye (the conjunctiva). This is often accompanied by itching and watery eyes and sometimes blurred vision, eye pain and sensitivity to light.
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Conjunctivitis can be caused by physical injury, allergies, or chemical exposure, but is most commonly caused by bacterial or viral infection. These infections can be highly contagious and spread rapidly among schoolchildren or households. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic eye drops prescribed by a physician whereas viral conjunctivitis usually clears up on its own if strict hygiene is followed.
Hygiene procedures include making sure that people in the same household do not share towels or pillowcases, frequent hand washing, and discarding eye cosmestics. Never share eye cosmetics with other people.
Good places to pick up a case of bacterial or viral conjunctivitis are schools, hospitals, and daycare centers. Avoid touching doorknobs at such locations with your bare hands and always refrain from touching your eyes in such locations unless you have washed your hands or used hand sanitizer.
The Safety Data Sheet or substances that are known to irritate or affect the eyes will list this information in Section 11 (toxicological information).
Exposure to chemicals that irritate the eyes (such as lachrymators) can cause conjunctivitis or make existing bacterial or viral conjunctivitis worse. Seek medical treatment if the condition does not clear up on its own.
If you are not certain whether a chemical was splashed in your eye or you are suffering from an infection-caused conjunctivitis you should consult a physician immediately.
Protect yourself from fumes and vapors in the workplace by either eliminating them at the source, substituting other materials, or using engineering controls such as a fume hood or local exhaust ventilation. Goggles and safety glasses are ineffective against fumes and vapors, but a full-face respirator can give excellent protection.
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See also: cataract, eye wash, sclera.
Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.
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