Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the transparent membrane (or conjunctiva) that lines the eyelids and eye^1^. It is a common condition that is usually minor; however it is uncomfortable and, when caused by an infection, can be highly contagious^1^.
Conjunctivitis may be the result of a bacterial or viral infection (infective conjunctivitis), or an allergy, e.g. to pollen, smoke, pollution (allergic conjunctivitis)^1^. The underlying cause will determine the course of treatment.
Your eye care professional, GP or pharmacist will be able to determine the presence and cause of conjunctivitis through an examination of the conjunctiva and surrounding area. Symptoms include^1^:
If you have infective conjunctivitis, you may have build-up or crusting overnight that makes it difficult to open your eyes on waking. You may also experience a burning sensation or feel like you have grit in your eye^2^.If you have allergic conjunctivitis your eyes may feel itchy^2^ and there may be a sticky discharge.
Conjunctivitis will generally run its course. However, infective conjunctivitis can be treated with eye drops containing chloramphenicol, which you can buy from your local pharmacy^3^. Allergic conjunctivitis can usually be treated with anti-allergy medication such as antihistamines^3^.
A number of steps can be taken to treat the infection and limit its spread. These include: washing hands frequently; using a clean tissue or eyelid wipe every time you wipe your eyes; immediately disposing of used tissues; and not sharing anything that may come into contact with your eyes, such as handkerchiefs, towels, sunglasses, makeup, eye drops or pillows^1^.
1. WebMD. Conjunctivitis. Available at: [http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/eye-health-conjunctivitis#1]
2. NHS. Conjunctivitis Symptoms. (2016) Available at: [http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/C... ]
3. NHS. Treating Conjunctivits. (2016) Available at: [http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Conjunctivitis-infective/Pages/Treatment.aspx]
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