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Conjunctivitis

Definition

Infective Conjunctivitis is a common eye infection.

Description

Conjunctivitis refers to an inflammation (swelling and redness) of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. Infective Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria or, in rare cases, by a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.

Infection is not the only cause of Conjunctivitis. Allergies, for example to seasonal pollen, animal dander and dust, can cause Allergic Conjunctivitis. Irritant Conjunctivitis can result when any irritating substance enters the eyes such as household cleaners, sprays of any kind, smoke, smog, and industrial pollutants.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Infective Conjunctivitis include reddening and watering of the eyes. A sticky coating may appear on the eyelashes. This discharge dries during sleep and can make the eyes feel like they are stuck together. It may also cause crusting around the eyelids. Conjunctivitis from a virus may involve one or both eyes, causing red itchy eyes with a discharge. Conjunctivitis caused by a bacterial infection almost always involves both eyes, although it may start in one eye. There may also be a gritty feeling when blinking. Symptoms last from two days to three weeks.

See your GP immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms which may indicate a more serious condition:

  • moderate to severe pain in your eyes,
  • photophobia (sensitivity to light),
  • disturbed vision, or
  • intense redness in your eyes

Treatment Options

As with all medical conditions your Doctor should be consulted for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

The majority of cases of Infective Conjunctivitis do not require any medical treatment. As most infections will heal without treatment within one to two weeks, your GP may not initially prescribe any particular medicines or treatment for you.

In some cases of bacterial Conjunctivitis antibiotic ointment or drops may be required. These are also available over the counter at your pharmacy. It is important to apply this treatment to both eyes, even if only one eye appears to be infected. You should continue to use the drops for two days after your symptoms have cleared. The following guidelines may assist recovery:

  • Remove contact lenses until all the signs and symptoms of the infection have been resolved. You should also avoid using contact lenses until 24 hours after you have finished a course of treatment, such as antibiotics.
  • Lubricant eye drops may help to ease any soreness and stickiness in your eyes.
  • Gently clean away sticky substances from your eyelashes using clean using cotton wool soaked in water. Clean in one direction only (either towards the nose from the outside in, or away from the nose) discarding the cotton ball each time to prevent recontamination.
  • Wash your hands regularly. To prevent spreading the infection to others it is important to wash your hands after you have touched your infected eye.

Vitamins/Minerals/Herbs

  • Fennel may be used as a compress to reduce inflammation of the eyes and skin.
  • Eyebright is best known for its use in eye conditions, including acute and chronic inflammations. It may be applied as a sterile compress in conjunction with internal use for Conjunctivitis.
  • Calendula is antibacterial and antiviral and can help reduce swollen eyes. Calendula eye washes are useful in treating conjunctivitis.
  • Chamomile can be used as a compress to reduce inflammation.
  • Zinc can be taken to help boost the immune system and the lessen the symptoms of conjunctivitis.

Remember

A person with Infective Conjunctivitis is infectious until discharge from eye has disappeared.

Pharmacist's Advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice:

  1. Follow the Diet Hints
  2. Your Pharmacist might suggest a suitable antibacterial eye drop or ointment if the Conjunctivitis is bacterial in origin. A product containing dibromopropamidine might be suggested although it is not to be used in infants of two years of age and under. Sulfacetamide sodium eye drops are also effective but should not be used by pregnant women. Remember that eye drops have a limited shelf life once opened.
  3. Use cotton buds to help clear any matter from around the eye. Use them only once as Conjunctivitis is very contagious.
  4. If Conjunctivitis is caused by an allergy an antihistamine eye drop might be suggested. Ask your Pharmacist. An artificial tear drop may also be suggested for some relief.
  5. Wear sunglasses in direct sunlight because infected eyes may be sensitive to light.
  6. To enhance the immune system of the body if the diet is inadequate, consider some vitamin C to enhance the natural immune system. Other supplements include vitamin B3 and vitamin B6.
  7. If the ailment is not responding to treatment see your Doctor.
  8. Avoid eye makeup where possible as cosmetics might cause complications.
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