Conjunctivitis a common problem
Conjunctivitis is a common condition which can be encountered all year round. It is associated with spring and the hay fever season as well as the colder winter months accompanying head colds and infections.
The symptoms of conjunctivitis include red irritated eyes that may feel gritty, sore and uncomfortable. They can also be itchy, sticky and weepy.
Conjunctivitis is caused by an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that protects the white of the eye and inside the eyelids. When you visit your pharmacy with these symptoms your Self Care pharmacist will ask questions to determine the cause of the conjunctivitis and will give you advice about which eye drops are most suitable. Causes of conjunctivitis can be divided into three groups, being infection, allergy or an irritant.
Infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses. These infections can be very contagious. Special care needs to be taken not to spread the infection to the other eye or other people. The infection should clear within a week when left untreated. However, the need for antibiotics for bacterial infections should be considered in certain circumstances, to prevent complications or to prevent the spread of infection to other people. Your Self Care Pharmacist can advise on the most appropriate treatment for you.
Allergic conjunctivitis or non-infective conjunctivitis may be due to seasonal triggers such as pollens or may be from other elements that are around all year round such as house dust or pet fur. Antihistamine eye drops are useful in the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis for itchy and irritated red eyes and oral antihistamines that you can take are also available. It is helpful to try and identify the cause of the allergy, so that it can be avoided if possible.
Irritant or chemical conjunctivitis can have a mechanical or chemical cause, such as foreign objects or chlorine from the swimming pool. This type of conjunctivitis usually clears when the cause is removed.
If there is pain in your eye, or if your vision is affected, or your eyes are more sensitive to light than usual then your optometrist or doctor needs to be consulted. Other situations where your optometrist or doctor need to be consulted are for children under two years of age, contact lens wearers who have a greater risk of serious eye infections and if symptoms do not improve with treatment or worsen after a few days.
Some helpful tips for general eye care for conjunctivitis:
• Wash your hands and dry well before using eye drops and after touching your eyes
• Apply a clean flannel soaked in warm water to the eye to clean away any discharge before instilling eye drops
• Apply normal saline to wash and soothe the eyes
• Use lubricant eye drops 4 to 8 times daily to soothe eyes
• Your eye drops are just for your use only, not to be shared with other people
• Use the eye drops as directed and instil only the number of drops recommended
• Prevent the spread to other people by not sharing face cloths, towels or make-up
• Discard eye drops one month after opening the bottle
Your Self Care pharmacist will be able to assist you to identify if you have conjunctivitis and recommend appropriate treatment.
Prepared by Pharmacy Self Care, Pharmaceutical Society of NZ Inc.
Redand irritated eyes are a symptomof conjunctivitis.