What is conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis, also known as
Pink Eye is a condition when the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers
the whole white of the eye, is inflamed. The conjunctiva produces mucus
that lubricates and protects the surface of the eye. This membrane is made
up of tiny blood vessels and when they become irritated the eye becomes
There are many causes of conjunctivitis
but most common are bacterial infections, allergies and or environmental
causes. Infectious conjunctivitis (viral and bacterial) can be very
contagious. Bacterial conjunctiva is often found in children, which is
caused by them touching their eyes with their hands that contain bacteria.
Viral conjunctivitis can
occur with colds, sore throats and flu. This type of conjunctivitis can
also spread and affect the cornea, which can then persist for several
Allergic conjunctivitis is
usually accompanied by other symptoms such as hay fever, eczema, asthma,
and stuffy or runny nose, tearing eyes and sneezing. Antigens like pollen,
dust mites or cosmetics often cause this conjunctivitis.
Reactive conjunctivitis is
caused by chemicals or irritants e.g. in swimming pools, smoke, gas.
Conjunctivitis in young children
Babies are susceptible to
infective conjunctivitis especially babies less than 1 year of age. This
type of conjunctivitis can be contracted during birth within the birth
canal and may also be a chlamydeous infection. Small babies also often have
poorly developed tear drainage. This can cause watery and sticky eyes and
of the eye
A doctor can only diagnose
conjunctivitis. A diagnose will be made after your eyes have been examined thoroughly
and after hearing the history of the condition. Sometimes a specimen will
to be taken from the eye if there is no improvement after treatment. Many
diseases can be confused with conjunctivitis
so it is important to see an
ophthalmologist should you have any of these symptoms or pain and or sudden
blurriness in your eye.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is
usually treated with antibiotic drops or ointments. The eyes should be
cleaned daily with cotton wool soaked in cooled boiled water to remove any
stickiness. Good eye hygiene leads to quicker recovery.
For viral conjunctivitis
there is no effective treatment but the eyes should be kept clean and
lubricated. As this condition can be contagious it is of uppermost
importance to carry out strict eye and hand hygiene to prevent spreading
the condition to others.
Conjunctivitis in small
children should be taken seriously. Treatment will depend on the cause of
the conjunctivitis. Good eye hygiene is important for children to help cure
the condition as quickly as possible.
Allergic conjunctivitis is
usually treated with antihistamine drops. These drops need to be used over
a period in order to achieve good results. The best treatment for allergic
conjunctivitis is to identify the source of allergic response and avoid
Good hygiene of hands, face
and eyes can help prevent conjunctivitis and the spreading of
conjunctivitis from one eye to another and from one person to another.
Eye hygiene method
Gently massage the outside
of the eyelids (eyes closed) with a hand towel (or cotton buds) soaked in
warm water or a mild baby shampoo at least once a day. Hygienic eye care
pads can also be used and are ideal for babies, children and adults.
If you have conjunctivitis it
is recommended that you do not share your towel with others and to wash it
frequently - avoiding spreading the condition.