Eye Infections and Irritations
What is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the transparent membrane (or conjunctiva) that lines the eyelids and eye. It is a common eye infection that is usually minor; however it is uncomfortable and, when caused by an infection, can be highly contagious.
Conjunctivitis may be the result of a bacterial or viral infection (infective conjunctivitis), or an allergy, e.g. to pollen, smoke, pollution (allergic conjunctivitis). The underlying cause will determine the course of treatment.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
Your eye care professional will be able to determine the presence and cause of conjunctivitis through an examination of the conjunctiva and surrounding area. Symptoms include:
- Pinkish or red colouration to the eyes
- A discharge from the eyes
- Feeling of discomfort in the eyes
If you have infective conjunctivitis, you may have build-up or crusting overnight that makes it difficult to open your eyes on waking. You may also experience a burning sensation or feel like you have grit in your eye. If you have allergic conjunctivitis your eyes may feel itchy and there may be a sticky discharge.
Treatments for Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis will generally run its course. However, infective conjunctivitis can be treated with eye drops recommended by your eye care practitioner. Allergic conjunctivitis can usually be treated with anti-allergy medication.
A number of steps can be taken to treat the infection and limit its spread. These include: washing hands frequently; using a clean tissue or eyelid wipe every time you wipe your eyes; immediately disposing of used tissues; and not sharing anything that may come into contact with your eyes, such as handkerchiefs, towels, sunglasses, makeup, eye drops or pillows.
Always consult your eye care practitioner for further advice.