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The Optical Co.
The Optical Co.


Conjunctivitis is a common eye condition where the conjunctiva becomes inflamed as a reaction to outside influences, causing it to become sore or irritated. 

It is often referred to as ‘pink-eye’ or ‘red-eye’ due to the symptoms caused by the irritation. The condition may affect just one eye, but after several hours both eyes normally show symptoms.




There are three main types of conjunctivitis:

  • Infective - This happens as a result of an infection caused by a virus or bacteria.

  • Allergic – This is due to exposure to an allergen, such as pollen. 

  • Irritant – This may occur when an irritant substance enters the eye.


The main symptoms of conjunctivitis are:

  • Red or bloodshot eyes – when the blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed.

  • Watery eyes – when the inflammation causes the conjunctiva’s tear glands to become ‘overactive’.

Infective conjunctivitis can also produce the following symptoms:

  • Your eyes may feel like they are burning.

  • It could feel like you have grit or dirt in your eyes.

  • Your eyelashes may be covered in a sticky coating, particularly in the mornings.

  • The lymph node in front of your ear can become swollen.

  • You may have a sticky discharge if the infection is bacterial.

  • You may have a watery discharge if the infection is viral.


If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you may also experience itchy eyes. If you experience eye pain, photophobia, heavily bloodshot eyes, or a disturbance in your eyesight this could be due to a more severe eye condition, such as acute glaucoma, keratitis, or iritis.

If this is the case you should seek immediate medical attention.




The complications that can arise from conjunctivitis depend on whether it is from an infection or an allergy. 



Bacterial infection can cause a number of complications, especially in prematurely born babies. These can include:

  • Meningitis – When the protective layer surrounding the brain and spinal cord becomes infected.

  • Cellulitis – When a layer of deep skin and tissue gets infected, causing surface skin to become sore.

  • Septicaemia – When bacteria enters the bloodstream and attacks body tissue. 

  • Otitis Media – When the ear becomes infected. It is usually a result of infective conjunctivitis that was caused by Haemophilus influenzae bacteria. Around one in four children are affected by otitis media, however it is a short-term infection.



Some forms of conjunctivitis can result in punctate epithelial keratitis, a condition that causes your cornea to swell up. This may lead to:

  • Light sensitivity

  • Pain or discomfort in your eyes

  • In serious cases, your cornea may develop ulcers – if they leave scars these could impair your vision permanently.


If you experience any severe pain, redness, photophobia or reduction in vision, you should seek urgent medical attention in the form of your GP or A&E department at your nearest hospital



Most types of conjunctivitis tend to clear up within one or two weeks, often without needing any medical treatment. If treatment is needed, eye drops or antibiotics will normally be advised depending on what type of conjunctivitis you have. 



Most instances of infective conjunctivitis should settle down within a week or two without the need for treatment.

However, there are methods of care you can follow at home:


  • Lubricant eye-drops can help ease any discomfort or soreness. They are generally available over the counter at a pharmacy, but your GP may prescribe them for you. 

  • It can help to remove contact lenses until the symptoms disappear – you shouldn’t re-use contact lenses once the condition passes as the infection could still be present. 

Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics, such as Chloramphenicol or Fusidic Acid, which are normally in the form eye-drops. However, as the condition will normally clear up on its own, antibiotics are only used if the infection is severe.



The symptoms caused by allergic conjunctivitis can be eased by:

  • Cool Compresses 

  • Removing contact lenses until symptoms cease

  • Antihistamines are used for fast relief of allergies. 

  • Corticosteroids, in the form of a cream, gel or ointment, may be used in severe cases.

  • Mast Cell stabilisers in the for of eye drops, help to control symptoms over a long period of time. As they may take a few weeks to have noticeable effect, you may be given antihistamines to take alongside the mast cell stabilisers.



This is normally a result of contact lens use. If you stop wearing the lenses the symptoms may subside. However, if the giant papillary conjunctivitis was caused by recent eye surgery, you should go to the hospital where you can be observed and given treatment.


The symptoms of irritant conjunctivitis should normally subside once the irritant substance has been removed:


  • Wash eye out with water and visit the Opticians to check for any damage

  • In cases where a harmful substance (e.g. bleach) is involved, you should go to the hospital where they will rinse your eyes with a saline solution.


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