Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the white part of your eye and the inner surfaces of your eyelids. There are three types of conjunctivitis - irritant, infective, and allergic. Each type of conjunctivitis is caused by different factors.
- Irritant conjunctivitis occurs when an eyelash or irritant, such as chlorine from the pool gets into your eyes.
- Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when your eye comes into contact with a substance that makes your body's immune system react abnormally, causing irritation and inflammation.
- Infective conjunctivitis is caused by a virus or bacteria.
One or both of your eyes may feel irritated or gritty. They may look inflamed and bloodshot. There maybe watering and /or a purulent discharge (sticky eye) which is worse in the morning. Conjunctivitis that lasts for months rather than weeks may be caused by an STI.
Most infections will heal with self-care within 1-2 weeks and do not require medical treatment. About 10% of people who have their infective conjunctivitis treated with antibiotics experience adverse side effects.
If there is an outbreak of conjunctivitis, your infective conjunctivitis has lasted for more than two weeks or is particularly severe you may need antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
The risk of any complications from untreated infective conjunctivitis is very low. Self-care measures should help resolve your symptoms.
- Remove contact lenses and wear glasses until all the signs and symptoms of infection have resolved.
- Avoid using contact lenses until 24hours after you have finished a course of antibiotics.
- Discard contaminated disposable lenses. Use new solution to clean non-disposable lenses before re-use.
- You may need to throw away any eye makeup you were using prior to the infection as if contaminated it may result in re infection.
- Cool compresses may help to ease any soreness and stickiness in your eyes.
- To clean away contaminated and contagious sticky substances from your eyes, use cotton wool soaked in water and discard.
- Wash your hands regularly and after touching or treating your infected eyes to prevent spreading infection to others.
- Avoid sharing towels, pillows, flannels or eye makeup.
How to use eye-drops and ointment
- For drops (often easiest to use during the day) Instil 1-2 drops into affected eye(s) every 2-6 hours for 2-3 days then decrease frequency.
- For ointment - apply 1.5cm every three hours.
- If ointment is used together with drops for day and night coverage, 1.5cm should be applied before retiring.
- Continue for at least 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.
- Keep medication in the refrigerator, do not share, and discard one month after opening.
- You can get some transient stinging or blurring of vision on instillation. Ensure your vision is clear before driving.
Normally you should start to improve 24-48 hours after starting medication.
- If you get worse or are concerned, make an appointment with your GP.
- If you are not improving, make an appointment with your GP for a review.
Seek immediate medical attention for any of the following:
- pain in your eyes, or on movement
- abnormal sensitivity to light
- any change in vision, or blurring that can’t be blinked away
- increasing redness in your eyes
- pain, swelling or discomfort in tissues around the eye