Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis is a rarely seen form of conjunctivitis which is highly infectious and is typified by a sudden onset of symptoms. It differs from the other types of conjunctivitis due to the hemorrhaging – discharge of blood from the blood vessels of the conjunctiva.

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of conjunctiva of the eye; the white portion of the eye turns red.

It affects one or both the eyes, and manifests as irritation, inflammation and watery discharge. Hemorrhagic conjunctivitis in a closed environment like an office and school can cause a rapid spread of the infection among individuals and even reach epidemic proportions.

Symptoms last for a week, and tend to clear up on their own. Supportive care for symptoms helps deal with the disorder successfully.

Symptoms Of Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis

The symptoms of acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis come on suddenly. Symptoms develop 12 – 48 hours after being infected. The signs and symptoms include:

  • The eye turns red.
  • There is intense itching and irritation.
  • The conjunctiva gets covered with blood.
  • Formation of crusts on the eyelids; and the eyelids stick to each other.
  • Severe pain in the eye.
  • Sensation of sand-like particle in the eye.
  • Constant watery discharge from the eyes.
  • Blurring of vision
  • Photophobia
  • Mild fever

Complications associated with acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis are rare though, these could include:

  • Excruciating pain in the eye.
  • Scarring and ulcers in the cornea.
  • Impairment to the eye can occur.
  • Loss of vision is rather rare, and occurs only if the cornea is involved.
  • The likelihood of bacterial infection occurring along viral infection.
  • Sometimes, other vital organs in the body get affected as well – skin, respiratory system, and neurological system.

What Causes Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis?

  • Hemorrhagic conjunctivitis is caused by 2 viruses – Coxsackievirus A24 and Enterovirus 70. Seldom, the Epstein-Barr virus may also be a cause.
  • The condition is very infectious and the communicable stage lasts for about 7 days, till the color of your eye returns to normal.
  • Viral transmission occurs via direct contact with items used by the infected person; by touch, using shared spaces and through nasal droplets.
  • Transmission occurs via the fecal-oral route as well; this happens in areas having poor sanitary conditions.
  • Poor hygiene conditions, crowded spaces, and insufficient quality healthcare increase the spread of hemorrhagic conjunctivitis.

Treatment Of Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis

Treatment measures include:

  • The infection tends to resolve by itself spontaneously. Symptomatic treatment needs to be provided though to allay the discomfort.
  • Antiviral drugs are generally not advocated.
  • Warm compress help decrease the swelling, inflammation and pain.
  • You must clean the crusts around the eyes very carefully, using soft and wet cotton swabs. Use a different swab for each eye.
  • Use lubricating drops, they help soothe the eyes.
  • In severe cases, topical corticosteroids are used if the iris and cornea are involved.
  • Your doctor may advise topical antibiotic drops to prevent bacterial infections from developing secondarily.
  • Do not wear contact lens when you have the infection; wear glasses instead.
  • In case, the symptoms affect the whole body, then systemic treatment becomes necessary.
  • Follow-up care is very vital to ward off any complications.