What is the Bulbar Conjunctiva?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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The bulbar conjunctiva is a clear membrane covering the outer portion of the eyeball. It protects the eye from incursion while also providing some lubrication to keep the eye moist and healthy. Disorders of the conjunctiva can include issues like conjunctivitis, where the membrane becomes inflamed and patients can experience discomfort and distinctive pinkish secretions from the eye. Treatment of conditions involving this structure is usually overseen by an ophthalmologist, although a primary care provider may offer basic care.

Also known as the ocular conjunctiva, the bulbar conjunctiva is a very thin membrane. It covers the upper surface of the eye, providing a thin layer to keep out viruses, bacteria, particulate matter, and other unwanted material. Specialized cells inside this structure produce mucus and tears to lubricate the eye. The tear glands also contribute lubrication, usually in greater amounts than the conjunctiva alone.

The palpebral conjunctiva, a related structure, runs along the eyelids. A flexible section of conjunctival tissue connects the palpebral and bulbar conjunctiva, allowing the eye to move freely. As a whole, the conjunctiva of the eye contributes to immune protection to the eye while lubricating the eye and associated structures.


Spanning the sclera, the white of the eye, the bulbar conjunctiva's clear surface allows people to clearly see the white of the eye, along with the blood vessels inside the eye. Damage to the bulbar conjunctiva, most often caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation, can cause conditions like pinguecula, where deposits of fatty material develop, and pterygium, another type of benign growth in the eye. Protecting the eye with sun glasses can help prevent the development of such conditions, as can wearing hats to shade the eyes and nose; light can bounce off the nose and into the eye, causing damage.

Inflammations of the conjunctiva can be associated with a variety of causes, including infectious, irritations caused by foreign bodies in the eye, and eye strain. People with inflammation may experience discomfort as a result of dry eye and other problems. In patients with disorders involving the bulbar conjunctiva, an eye exam is conducted to learn more about the nature and origins of the condition, with the goal of developing a treatment plan to address the issue. Treatment often involves topical application of eyedrops to soothe inflammation and kill infectious organisms. Surgery may be an option for some conditions if a patient has difficulty seeing or develops growths on the bulbar conjunctiva.


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