Commonly known as ‘pink eye’, conjunctivitis is any inflammation that occurs in the clear tissue that covers the white surface of the eye (scelera) and inner layer of the eyelid (conjunctiva).
Men, women and children of all ages, even the newborn, can suffer from one of the forms of pink eye.
Irrespective of the cause, the condition, apart from being unsightly, can be extremely uncomfortable. Irritation can be severe, not dissimilar to the discomfort a foreign body in the eye produces, accompanied by a watery or thick yellow/white discharge.
It is important to remember that conjunctivitis is highly contagious so take care over personal hygiene and avoid contact with others.
Symptoms of Conjuctivitis
Common pink eye symptoms are: –
- A gradual onset of noticeable red soreness in one or both eyes.
- Itchy, gritty feeling in one or both eyes.
- Tears or a yellowish discharge that can form a crust after sleeping and is difficult to remove.
Duration of Conjunctivitis
If untreated conjunctivitis usually lasts for two to three weeks although it can resolve itself in as little as two to three days. Early treatment can clear the condition sooner.
Causes of Conjunctivitis
Bacterial or viral infections are the most common causes. Others include foreign bodies, tobacco smoke, use of contact lenses, cosmetics or chemical splashes entering the eye, and allergies.
In infants the cause may be a blocked or incompletely opened tear duct.
Risks of Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis as a result of a bacterial or viral infection is highly contagious, especially among children. Risk of passing on the infection can last for seven to fourteen days after its first appearance.
Resist rubbing the eyes, wash hands frequently, avoid touching others, towels, face cloths, pillows etc, should not be shared with others and washed and changed at least daily. Throw away used mascara and other eye cosmetics and do not use any one else’s.
Although uncommon, conjunctivitis may be a sign of a serious underlying eye disease.
Unless advised by a doctor, never cover red eye with a patch as it can only encourage increased infection.
This form of pink eye can be treated with antibiotic eye drops or alternatively, for children and infants, with an antibiotic eye ointment that is easier to apply. In either case consult your physician for the recommended medication and be sure to complete the course even if the symptoms clear up, if not the infection can re-occur.
A significant improvement can be expected within 24-48 hours.
In common with other viral infections the condition cannot be cured by treatment and must run its natural course. However your physician will advise on the best treatment to alleviate the symptoms. Expect a gradual worsening of the condition for the initial 3-5 days before the symptoms gradually improve and clear on their own, usually within a further two to three weeks.
If your doctor diagnosis this condition, there is a variety of eye drops that can be effectively prescribed, ranging from anti inflammatory, antihistamines, steroids and others.
Although it is highly recommended that medical advice is sought as soon as possible after the symptoms appear, it is possible to gain some relief by applying a clean cloth dampened with warm water to the closed lids of the affected eye.
No form of conjunctivitis is likely to have any long term effect on the vision or eye health of adults and older children, but do remember that it is highly contagious, take precautions not to pass it on. Children should either be kept from school or teachers advised that the child has conjunctivitis. In the case of infants seek immediate medical attention as soon as any symptoms are noticed.
Red eye is an uncomfortable and unpleasant infection that can strike without warning. The sooner sufferers obtain and act on qualified medical advice, the quicker and more effective the relief.
However, if you feel that you don’t want to go to see your doctor you could always try some natural remedies .