Chronic conjunctivitis is a type of eye infection in the thin layer of tissue that covers the eye called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva helps keep the eye lubricated but can become infected. A short-term infection that lasts less than a month is usually referred to as acute conjunctivitis. A long-term infection, however, may last longer and is usually referred to as chronic conjunctivitis. Often, chronic conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria that invade the eye, but it can also develop as a result of inflamed oil glands in the lid and other disease-causing agents.
The symptoms of chronic infection of the conjunctiva depend on the cause of the condition but often include reddening of the white part of the eye, irritation, and itching. Sometimes the eye may tear frequently or become overly dry. A patient with this condition may also notice thick secretions that seep from his eyes. Often, the secretions are greenish or yellowish, though they can also appear off-white in color. Waking with crusted eyelashes and eyelash loss are also common symptoms of conjunctivitis.
One type of long-term conjunctivitis develops because of bacteria. There are various types of bacteria that cause this condition, but Staphylococcus bacteria are among the most common. This type of chronic conjunctivitis infection is often marked by redness of the eye, irritation, and burning. Some people with this condition may notice their eyelashes are crusted over on the morning, and some suffer from eyelash loss. Sometimes a person with Staphylococcus-caused conjunctivitis also notices that his eyelashes begin to grow in an abnormal direction.
Meibomitis is another cause of chronic conjunctivitis. This condition results when glands in a person’s eyelids become inflamed. It leads to malfunction of the oil glands, and inflammation of both the part of the lid behind the eyelashes and the conjunctiva.
One type of chronic conjunctivitis is caused by an infection called trachoma. It is not common in the United States or other parts of North America, but it occurs frequently in Africa, Asia, and Middle Eastern countries. A trachoma infection develops because of infection with a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis and is a cause of preventable blindness.
There are a range of treatments that may be used for chronic conjunctivitis. Among them are antibiotics that are placed in the eyes and artificial tears. Sometimes oral antibiotics and topical non-antibiotic medications are used to treat this condition as well.