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What is conjunctivitis?

Also known as Pink Eye, Conjunctivitis is a common eye condition that causes redness and inflammation to the layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye. While Conjunctivitis can be a frustrating condition, in most cases it won’t pose a serious threat to your health.

How is conjunctivitis caused?

The thin layer of tissue over the white of your eye is called the conjunctiva. As the name implies, when you get Conjunctivitis it is because your conjunctiva is inflamed. It can become inflamed because of:

  • an allergic reaction
  • a bacterial or viral infection
  • your eye coming into contact with shampoo or chlorinated water, or tiny debris

Many things can cause Conjunctivitis, from pollen to contact lenses to bacteria. The sheer number of ways you can get Conjunctivitis is why so many people suffer from the condition every year.

Conjunctivitis symptoms

The symptoms of Conjunctivitis will depend on what’s causing the condition. Only one eye tends to be affected at first, but symptoms usually affect both eyes within a few hours.

The two main symptoms are:

  1. Redness of the eye.
    This is a result of the inflammation and widening of the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva.
  2. Discharge.
    The inflammation causes the glands in the conjunctiva to become overactive, so that they produce more water and mucus.

Infective conjunctivitis

  • Burning sensation in your eyes
  • A feeling of grit in your eyes
  • Sticky coating on the eyelashes
  • Enlarged lymph node in front of your ear

Allergic conjunctivitis

  • Itchiness
  • Sneezing
  • A runny or blocked nose.

Treatments for conjunctivitis

Treatment isn’t usually needed for Conjunctivitis, because the symptoms often clear up within a couple of weeks. If any treatment is needed, the type of treatment will depend on the cause. In severe cases, antibiotic eye drops can be used to clear the infection.

Irritant Conjunctivitis will clear up as soon as whatever is causing it is removed.

Allergic Conjunctivitis can usually be treated with anti-allergy medications such as antihistamines. If possible, you should avoid the substance that triggered the allergy.

It’s best not to wear contact lenses until the symptoms have cleared up. Any sticky or crusty coating on the eyelids or lashes can be cleansed with cotton wool and water.

Washing your hands regularly and not sharing pillows or towels will help prevent it spreading.

If you suffer from conjunctivitis and have any concerns, pain/sensitivity to light or the condition does not settle down, you should book an eye examination.