Conjunctivitis... A Simple Guide

Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable, itchy feeling in your eyes, almost as if they were turning into bright red beacons? Chances are, you might have come face-to-face with conjunctivitis, a nasty eye condition known more commonly as "pink eye."

In this article, we're going to delve into everything you need to know about conjunctivitis - from its causes and symptoms to treatment options and prevention tips.

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the thin, transparent layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye and the inside of your eyelids. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies, or irritants.

What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?

The most common symptoms of conjunctivitis include redness, itching, watering, and a gritty or burning sensation in the eyes. You may also experience blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light.

How is conjunctivitis transmitted?

Conjunctivitis can spread through direct contact with infected eye secretions, such as through touching an infected person's hands or sharing items like towels or makeup brushes. It can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Can I go to work or school with conjunctivitis?

It's best to stay home from work or school until your conjunctivitis symptoms have improved or until you have received appropriate treatment. This helps prevent the spread of the infection to others.

What is the treatment for conjunctivitis?

The treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the cause. Viral conjunctivitis usually goes away on its own within a week or two, and treatment primarily focuses on relieving symptoms. Bacterial conjunctivitis may require antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Allergic conjunctivitis can be managed with antihistamine eye drops or oral medications.

How can I prevent conjunctivitis?

To reduce the risk of conjunctivitis, practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes with unwashed hands, and avoid sharing items like towels or eye makeup with others. If you have allergies, try to identify and avoid allergens that trigger your symptoms.

Can I wear contact lenses with conjunctivitis?

It's generally recommended to avoid wearing contact lenses until your conjunctivitis has completely resolved. Contact lenses can increase discomfort and prolong recovery time.

When should I see a doctor for conjunctivitis?

You should see a doctor if your symptoms worsen or don't improve after a few days of home care, if you have severe pain or vision changes, or if you have symptoms in only one eye. A healthcare professional can help determine the cause of your conjunctivitis and provide appropriate treatment.

If you’re struggling to get a doctor's appointment, pharmacies in Wales offer advice and treatment for conjunctivitis as a handy and accessible alternative.

Is conjunctivitis contagious?

Yes, conjunctivitis can be highly contagious, especially the viral and bacterial forms. Take precautions to limit the spread of infection by practising good hygiene and avoiding close contact with others.

How long does conjunctivitis last?

The duration of conjunctivitis can vary depending on the cause. Viral conjunctivitis typically lasts one to two weeks, while bacterial conjunctivitis may improve within a few days to a week with treatment. Allergic conjunctivitis can last as long as you're exposed to the allergen but can be managed with proper treatment.