Conjunctivitis, also known as ‘red’ or ‘pink eye’, happens when the conjunctiva (a thin membrane lining the inside of the eyelids) becomes inflamed or swells.
Conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes and can be highly contagious. It is usually the result of a bacterial or viral infection or in some cases, conjunctivitis occurs due to an allergic reaction.
- Despite the cause, the two most common symptoms of conjunctivitis are discharge and redness of the eye.
- Discharge occurs as the cells and glands that generate tears and mucus produce excess, due to overactivity.
- Redness of the eyes is a result of widened blood vessels within the eye and inflammation of the cells.
Other common symptoms include:
- burning or painful sensation in the eye
- course or gritty feeling when blinking
- producing sticky mucus that sticks to lashes and tends to develop overnight
- inflammation of the gland in front of your ear (lymph node)
- Conjunctivitis is often caused by a viral or a bacterial infection called infective conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis caused by an allergic reaction is known as allergic conjunctivitis.
- Infective conjunctivitis is highly contagious and you are at a greater risk of contracting the condition if you have been in contact with someone else who has it.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious but symptoms, such as red and watery eyes are still present.
- The risk of getting conjunctivitis is higher if you are taking certain types of steroids have diabetes or have a weakened immune system. Also, with older people and young children, the risk is increased.
Due to the contagious nature of conjunctivitis, if you find yourself exhibiting symptoms, treatment should be sought straight away. Our professionals are able to examine symptoms, ascertain the cause and treat accordingly, providing medication if required.
Treatment of conjunctivitis differs depending on the cause. In many cases, conjunctivitis will clear up on its own, without the need for antibiotic intervention. However, if your baby exhibits red eyes and is under 28 days old, an urgent medical appointment should be made.
There are a number of steps that can be undertaken by yourself to deal with the symptoms of conjunctivitis.
These steps include:
- avoiding wearing contact lenses until your eyes are healed
- avoiding rubbing your eyes
- washing hands regularly with soapy warm water
- washing all face cloths and pillows with hot water and laundry detergent
- using cotton wool and boiled water (different pieces for each eye) to gently clean your eyelashes
- holding a cold washcloth to your eyes in order to cool them down
In those cases where conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection and the symptoms have persisted for more than two weeks, antibiotics may be prescribed. However, antibiotics will be ineffective on viral or allergic conjunctivitis.