Conjunctivitis - ‘redeye’ or ‘pinkeye’ - occurs when the clear membrane that lines the front of the eye becomes red and swollen.
- Burning and feeling like you have grit in the eye
- Light sensitivity
- Watery eyes
- Thickening of eyelids
- Sticky crust discharge
What Causes Conjunctivitis
It is caused by an infection from viruses or bacteria, by an allergic reaction to pollen or another allergen, or by something irritating the eye such as a loose eye-lash or chlorinated water.
What’s the best way to treat conjunctivitis?
Generally conjunctivitis clears within a week or two.
Conjunctivitis can be eased by gently bathing the eyes with cotton wool and warm water or by using an eye lotion recommended by the pharmacist.
Infectious conjunctivitis is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops such as chloramphenicol which usually clears it within 2 or 3 days. More powerful antibiotics may be required if chloramphenicol does not work or the infection is caused by Chlamydia. Conjunctivitis caused by herpes is treated with an antiviral eye drops containing aciclovir.
Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with eye drops or tablets containing antihistamine. Drops containing xylometazoline constrict the blood vessels to the eye to provide relief from soreness and itching. Occasionally, corticosteroids are prescribed if the problem is severe. You should also avoid future contact with the allergen.
Irritant conjunctivitis (caused by something irritating the eye such as shampoo or a foreign body) often clears by itself. If you have something in your eye such as an eyelash or insect it may be possible to bathe it out, otherwise seek medical assistance to have it carefully removed.
Whatever the cause, avoid wearing contact lenses until symptoms have cleared and do not share towels to prevent infectious conjunctivitis spreading to others.
See your GP if you experience eye pain, sensitivity to light, disturbed vision or the patient is a newborn.