Conjunctivitis is an eye condition caused by infection or allergies. It is a fairly common condition that causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye, the conjunctiva.
Conjunctivitis usually affects one eye at first, but can affect both eyes after a few hours
The symptoms of conjunctivitis will depend on what's causing the condition. However, the three main symptoms are usually:
- redness of the eye
- pain (a burning or grittiness)
- discharge (watery, or sticky)
Only one eye tends to be affected at first, but symptoms usually affect both eyes within a few hours.
The four main causes of conjunctivitis are:
- viral conjunctivitis (most commonly an adenovirus that may also cause a sore throat and high temperature). The symptoms are usually clear watery discharge with a red eye.
- bacterial conjunctivitis (from strains of bacteria that often cause chest and ear infections). The symptoms are usually sticky pus-like discharge and a coating on the lashes.
- allergic conjunctivitis (allergies to e.g. pollen, dust mite, animal hair). The symptoms are usually itchy, red and watery eyes, with or without nasal symptoms.
- irritant conjunctivitis (e.g. to a foreign body, shampoos, smokeor fumes.
You can usually treat conjunctivitis by yourself at home
- Use a clean cotton wool (one piece for each eye). Boil water and then let it cool down before you clean off crusts on your lashes by rubbing them gently.
- You can also use baby shampoo and water (1:10) as per the new Royal College of Ophthalmologist Guidelines.
You can stop the spread of conjunctivitis by
- cleaning hands regularly
- avoid wearing contact lens until your eyes are better
- avoid sharing towels or pillows
You can see a pharmacist who may advise some over the counter eye drops or ointment, which may contain an antibiotic.