Published May 29, 2000
I was recently told by my charge nurse that conjunctivitis was not pinkeye. He stated that pink eye was aquired from someone else. I have always been taught that they were the same thing so I got curious and looked it up in one of my nursing texts. My test defined conjunctivitus "as an infection of the conjunctiva caused by bacteria or viruses. Bacterial conjunctivitus is commonly called pinkeye." Has anyone else ever heard of conjunctivitus only being called pinkeye if you contrated it from someone else?
As a school nurse (and the mother of a child with conjunctivitis at this time) I can share with you that there are two types of conjuctivitis - bacterial (contagious)and allergic (non-contagious). Allergic conjunctivitis can also become bacterial conjunctivitis due to a compromised eye becoming infected with bacteria. Hope this helps.
Pink eye is a lay term for conjunctivitis, like falling out (Appalachian) is a lay term for seizures. Pink eye is also used to denote a symptom of conjunctivitis. Infectious disease, allergic reactions, chemical, thermal, and traumatic injury to the eye can cause pink eye.
In an outbreak the lines can be blurred. I worked an outbreak of mold induce conjunctivitis in which some had an actual fungal infection and others just had an allergic reaction to the mold. But they all had pink eyes.
BTW in occupational health I get to see the most inventive excuses for time away from work due to conjunctivitis and pink eye.
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