Conjunctivitis is a common condition that causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer that covers the front of the eye. This can happen for a number of reasons:
- Bacterial or Viral infection (infective conjunctivitis)
- Allergic reaction to a substance such as pollen or dust mites (allergic conjunctivitis)
- Contact with substances that can irritate the conjunctiva, such as chlorinated water or shampoo, or a loose eyelash rubbing against the eye (irritant conjunctivitis)
Two of the main symptoms of all kinds of conjunctivitis include eye redness and watering eyes, and even though one eye is usually affected first, both eyes can display symptoms. With infective conjunctivitis other symptoms include a feeling of grit in the eyes and a sticky coating on the eyelashes.
Type of treatment will depend on the cause of the condition, and in severe cases antibiotic eye drops can be used to clear the infection (these can be purchased over the counter from your local pharmacy), although conjunctivitis can clear up on its own, usually within a couple of weeks. Irritant conjunctivitis will clear as soon as the irritant is removed. Allergic conjunctivitis can usually be cleared with anti-allergy medications such as antihistamines, and if possible the substance that has caused the allergy should be avoided. It’s best to avoid wearing contact lenses until the symptoms have cleared, and any sticky or crusty coating on the eyelids or lashes can be cleansed with cotton wool and water. Other tips include washing your hands regularly and avoiding sharing pillows to prevent it spreading.
In the case of any eye pain, sensitivity to light, disturbed vision or if a new born baby contracts conjunctivitis, then a GP should be consulted.
Public Health England advises that you do not need to stay away from work or school if you or your child has conjunctivitis unless you are feeling particularly unwell.
If you need any more information, then visit your local pharmacy and the team will be happy to give you some help and advice.
TNT Lifestyle Adedayo Titiloye MRPharmS