What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is redness and swelling, or inflammation of the conjunctiva of one or both eyes.  The conjunctiva is a thin layer of tissue that covers the inside of the eyelids and the front of the eye. The conjunctiva can easily be seen by pulling the bottom eyelid down to reveal the fleshy pink / red part.


What does it feel like?

Conjunctivitis feels like an irritation in the eye, as though there is grit under the eyelid that cannot be removed.  It can sometimes feel like a burning sensation.

This often makes the eye watery and may give rise to a yellow / green sticky discharge which can “glue” the eyelids together.  When the eye is watery and discharging the vision can also appear blurred.  The conjunctiva is usually red.


How did I get it?

The cause of conjunctivitis is often either from an allergy or an infection although there are a number of other less common and rarer causes.

When caused by an infection the conjunctiva tend to discharge yellow / green fluid and can be itchy.  The discharge can spread the condition.  Given the presence of an infection there is usually an association with other infective features such as may be seen with a cold.

Allergic conjunctivitis is common in Spring and Summer due to the high levels of pollens in the air, or following other dust or chemical exposure as might be seen when decorating.  Contact lenses can also cause irritation of the conjunctiva.


How long will it last?

That depends upon the cause.

Conjunctivitis caused by a virus or bacteria commonly pass within 7-14 days when good hygiene measures are adopted.

During this time, there is no need to avoid school or work.

Conjunctivitis that is due to an allergy will usually require removal of the offending chemical before it resolves.


Do I need any treatment?

Infective conjunctivitis does not usually require any treatment other than good hygiene.  Wiping the eye from the inside edge to the outside using cool boiled water and cotton wool will help to safely remove any debris or discharge.  Cool compresses around the eye can also reduce redness, swelling and discomfort.  It is important to remember to wash you hands thoroughly after touching any discharge from the eye to reduce the risk of spreading the condition.

If our team decides that the condition does require antibiotics, we might choose either Chloramphenicol drops, ointment or Fucidic acid (a type of penicillin).

Allergic conjunctivitis requires removal of the offending chemical.  Oral antihistamines and/ or Sodium Cromoglicate eye drops are often helpful.


Is this dangerous?

Not usually.  

Our team are skilled in identifying when the problem is more sinister than a simple infection or irritation.

However, to help us it is important for you to highlight to us if you suffer from any of the following problems –

  • Recently reduced vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Pain on looking at light
  • Conjunctivitis in a new born baby in the first 30 days of life
  • Trauma to the eye
  • Copious offensive discharge (this can be suggestive of a Gonorrhoea infection)
  • Suggestion of shingles / chicken pox
  • Contact lens use