What is Follicular Conjunctivitis?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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Follicular conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the membrane that covers the eyeball. When the conjunctiva becomes infected, whether with a virus, bacteria, or allergen, it becomes red and irritated. This particular type of conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is usually caused by a virus, such as chickenpox or herpes simplex, though it can also stem from chlamydia, a cold, or an allergy to certain medications. It is often distinguished from other types of conjunctivitis by the yellow and pink sores that may show up on the eyelids, as these are lymph node tissues. Like viral conjunctivitis in general, the best cure is usually time, since antibiotics cannot effectively treat it.

The symptoms of follicular conjunctivitis are similar to those that appear in most cases of pink eye. For example, the eye is often irritated and red, with the feeling of a foreign body inside it. Many people also notice yellow or green discharge, puffy eyes, and a fever. Unlike other types of pink eye, follicular conjunctivitis is often accompanied by swelling and discomfort of the lymph nodes that are located by the ears. Of course, the lymph tissue in the lower eyelid is also usually inflamed.


There are various viruses that may cause follicular conjunctivitis, including herpes simplex, herpes zoster, and adenovirus. Of course, more common conditions can also cause this kind of pink eye, such as a cold, or any number of various allergens. For example, getting dust, pollen, or smoke in the eye can result in the conjunctiva becoming red and inflamed. An allergic reaction can also be caused by prescription medication, particularly eye drops that are used to treat conditions like glaucoma.

Some sexually transmitted diseases also may result in follicular conjunctivitis. For instance, gonorrhea is one disease that affects the mucus membranes, so it is no surprise that the eyes of patients with this STD are also often impacted by pink eye. Additionally, chlamydia is the cause of some cases of this condition, though it is rare, and usually only babies are affected. This is because newborn infants can contract the disease from their mother at birth, but eye drops are often given to babies with infected mothers to prevent the condition from forming after delivery.

Similar to most other types of conjunctivitis, the follicular kind cannot be cured by medications, but its symptoms can be treated while it heals. For instance, artificial eye drops can be used to help eliminate the gritty, dry feeling, providing some relief while waiting for time and rest to heal the eye. Despite the lack of treatment options, those who suspect that they have this condition are encouraged to visit the doctor to get an official diagnosis.


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