Focus on conjunctivitis treatments
Conjunctivitis is a common condition that 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 visiting the pharmacy with these symptoms your Self Care pharmacist will ask questions to determine the cause of the conjunctivitis and will give advice about which eye drops are most suitable for you. Causes of conjunctivitis can be divided into three groups, being infection or 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 to 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. The antibiotic Chloramphenicol is available from your Self Care Pharmacist and they can advise if this would be 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 are also available. It is helpful to try and identify the cause of the allergy, so that it can be avoided as much as 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 consult an optometrist or doctor. Other situations where your optometrist or doctor need to be consulted are for children under two, 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.
Here are 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, do not to be share them.
• 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 can help identify if you have conjunctivitis and recommend appropriate treatment. For more information see the fact cards on Eye Care and Conjunctivitis and Hayfever.
Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and care should be taken to prevent it spreading.