Viral Conjunctivitis Treatment & Management
- Author: Ingrid U Scott, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Hampton Roy, Sr, MD more...
Treatment of adenoviral conjunctivitis is supportive. No evidence exists that demonstrates the efficacy of antiviral agents.
Patients should be instructed to use cold compresses and lubricants, such as artificial tears, for comfort.
Topical vasoconstrictors and antihistamines may be used for severe itching but generally are not indicated, because they are minimally helpful and may cause rebounding of symptoms, as well as local toxicity and hypersensitivity.
Antibiotic and Topical Steroid Treatment
For patients who may be susceptible, a topical astringent or antibiotic may be used to prevent bacterial superinfection.
Topical steroids may be used for pseudomembranes or when subepithelial infiltrates impair vision, although subepithelial infiltrates may recur after discontinuing the steroids. Extreme caution should be taken when using corticosteroids, as they may worsen an underlying HSV infection.
A study by Wilkins et al focused on whether topical steroids improve the comfort of patients compared with hypromellose in acute presumed viral conjunctivitis. It found that the use of a short course of topical dexamethasone for patients with acute follicular conjunctivitis presumed to be viral in origin was not harmful.
An in vitro study using adenovirus 8 and A549 human epithelial cell cultures demonstrated that povidone-iodine at a concentration of 1:10 (0.8%) is highly effective against free adenovirus, less effective against intracellular adenoviral particles in already infected cells, and not significantly cytotoxic for healthy cells. Thus, povidone-iodine 0.8% may represent a potential option to reduce contagiousness in cases of adenoviral infections.
Patients with conjunctivitis caused by HSV usually are treated with topical antiviral agents, including idoxuridine solution and ointment, vidarabine ointment, and trifluridine solution. An ophthalmologist should see any patient with ocular HSV infection.
Treatment of VZV eye disease includes oral acyclovir, 600-800 mg, 5 times daily for 7-10 days, to terminate viral replication. Topical corticosteroids usually are not indicated for conjunctivitis or keratitis.
For conjunctivitis associated with molluscum contagiosum, disease will persist until the skin lesion is treated. Removal of the central core of the lesion or inducement of bleeding within the lesion usually is enough to cure the infection. Occasionally, surgical excision is required.
Considerations for other viral causes
Other viral causes of conjunctivitis generally are self-limited and treated supportively with compresses for comfort and topical antibiotics as necessary to prevent bacterial superinfection.
Treatment of Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis
Treatment of acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis is supportive, as in adenoviral infection, and includes bed rest, cold compresses, and analgesics. Antibiotics have no useful role unless bacterial superinfection is present.
Prevention of Viral Conjunctivitis
Prevention of transmission, especially in health care facilities, is extremely important. Careful hand washing before seeing every patient, proper cleansing of instruments, and frequent changing of multiuse ophthalmic drops are vital. Using a single infective examination room, as well as educating the staff and the patient, is important.
Patients should be instructed to take contagion and isolation precautions for at least 2 weeks or as long as their eyes are red and weeping.
Physicians have been sued by patients who believe they acquired viral conjunctivitis in the doctor's office. Every attempt to prevent transmission from patient to patient (not to mention to the doctor) should be made. Suggestions include not having patients with a red eye wait in the general waiting room, having a special examination room for patients with red eye, disinfecting the examination room after seeing any patient with a red eye, not shaking hands with patients with red eye (after explaining the reason to them), touching their eyelids with cotton-tipped applicators and not your fingers, washing the hands immediately after examining the patient (even before writing in the chart), and not giving the chart to the patient to bring to the receptionist.
Viral conjunctivitis is an occupational hazard of eye care physicians. Take all precautions possible not to become a victim.
Patients with conjunctivitis, especially those treated with medications, require follow-up care. Patients should return in 1-3 weeks or sooner if the condition worsens.
An important aspect of treatment is to know the proper time to refer the patient to a specialist.
Patients with hyperacute conjunctivitis or those with corneal involvement, such as ulceration, herpetic keratitis, or suspected orbital cellulitis, should be referred to an ophthalmologist.
An ophthalmologist also should evaluate patients who fail to respond to appropriate therapy.
Ishiko H, Shimada Y, Konno T, Hayashi A, Ohguchi T, Tagawa Y, et al. Novel human adenovirus causing nosocomial epidemic keratoconjunctivitis. J Clin Microbiol. 2008 Jun. 46(6):2002-8. [Medline].
Kuo SC, Shen SC, Chang SW, Huang SC, Hsiao CH. Corneal superinfection in acute viral conjunctivitis in young children. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. 2008 Nov-Dec. 45(6):374-6. [Medline].
Park SW, Lee CS, Jang HC, et al. Rapid identification of the coxsackievirus A24 variant by molecular serotyping in an outbreak of acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis. J Clin Microbiol. 2005 Mar. 43(3):1069-71. [Medline].
Kimura R, Migita H, Kadonosono K, Uchio E. Is it possible to detect the presence of adenovirus in conjunctiva before the onset of conjunctivitis?. Acta Ophthalmol. 2009 Feb. 87(1):44-7. [Medline].
Udeh BL, Schneider JE, Ohsfeldt RL. Cost effectiveness of a point-of-care test for adenoviral conjunctivitis. Am J Med Sci. 2008 Sep. 336(3):254-64. [Medline].
Kaneko H, Maruko I, Iida T, Ohguchi T, Aoki K, Ohno S, et al. The possibility of human adenovirus detection from the conjunctiva in asymptomatic cases during nosocomial infection. Cornea. 2008 Jun. 27(5):527-30. [Medline].
Wilkins MR, Khan S, Bunce C, et al. A randomised placebo-controlled trial of topical steroid in presumed viral conjunctivitis. Br J Ophthalmol. 2011 Sep. 95(9):1299-303. [Medline].
Monnerat N, Bossart W, Thiel MA. [Povidone-iodine for treatment of adenoviral conjunctivitis: an in vitro study]. Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd. 2006 May. 223(5):349-52. [Medline].
Keller DM. Rapid Tests Diagnose Dry Eye, Adenovirus Conjunctivitis. Medscape Medical News. January 15, 2013. Available at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/777710. Accessed: January 23, 2013.
Sambursky R, Trattler W, Tauber S, Starr C, Friedberg M, Boland T, et al. Sensitivity and Specificity of the AdenoPlus Test for Diagnosing Adenoviral Conjunctivitis. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013 Jan 1. 131(1):17-21. [Medline].
Usher P, Keefe J, Crock C, Chan E. Appropriate prescribing for viral conjunctivitis. Aust Fam Physician. 2014 Nov. 43 (11):748-9. [Medline].