Conjunctivitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
What is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is when the clear fleshy outer surface of the eye gets inflamed making the whites of your eyes bloodshot. Conjunctivitis s quite common and can be highly contagious.
Causes And Types Of Conjunctivitis
There are many causes of conjunctivitis, from an allergic reaction to bacterial or viral infection. Here’s the breakdown:
- Allergic conjunctivitis is typically seasonal. The inflammation is caused by irritants such as pollen, animal dander (skin flakes and hair), grasses or dust. The eyes can feel itchy, swollen, have a stringy white mucus discharge and feel gritty or dry.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis is often caused when bacteria are transferred onto the eye from unwashed hands or an unclean surface like a towel. Inflammation from bacterial conjunctivitis can be extremely painful and the eye may produce pus (yellowish discharge). A bacterial infection of the eye should be seen by your optometrist immediately.
- Viral conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and easily spread between people. Viral conjunctivitis is most commonly associated with the common cold and can cause severe itching and a clear watery discharge. Any viral infection should be treated immediately by your optometrist but, like a cold, it may clear up on its own over the course of several days.
When the eye is inflamed as a result of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, an optometrist should be contacted as soon as possible. More often than not, the symptoms will reduce over a few days but they should not take longer than one week to do so. If the symptoms persist longer than a week, see your optometrist immediately as antibiotics or other eye drops may be required.
There are a handful of helpful in-home treatments to relieve the symptoms of conjunctivitis such as cold or warm compress on the eye, taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen for the pain, discomfort and swelling plus the use of over-the-counter artificial tears to lubricate the surface of the eye.
To find out more about conjunctivitis treatment and prevention, visit your nearest optometrist.
As everyone has learnt through the experience of COVID 19, a virus is easily spread by the direct exchange of bodily fluids or hand-to-hand contact so children are very susceptible to conjunctivitis. Here are some simple tips on how to prevent conjunctivitis from spreading:
- Wash your hands well. Commonly, children fail to wash their hands regularly and tend to touch many surfaces. When children are in close contact, particularly in the classroom, stopping the spread of conjunctivitis can feel like an impossible feat.
- Use hand sanitizer. It helps if hand sanitizer is readily available to reduce the spreading of bacteria that cause conjunctivitis. Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and avoid touching your eyes - especially with unclean hands.
- It is advised to clean and properly store contact lenses and avoid using eye makeup when the eye is infected - things like mascara wands can pick up the bacteria or virus and then re-infect the eye.
- Wash bed linen, (especially pillow slips), and towels regularly.
- Protect your eyes from exposure to harsh chemicals by wearing goggles when in the presence of volatile (vapour producing) chemicals.
- Allergy sufferers should have antihistamines on hand and use allergy prevention medication before allergy season begins.
Think you might have conjunctivitis?
Visit your nearest optometrist for an eye test today