Eye conditions - Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is a medical term used to describe redness and inflammation of the eye. Sometimes referred to as ‘red eye’ or ‘pink eye’ symptoms can include:
- Itchiness of the eye and surrounding area
- Watering of the eye
- A sticky coating on the eyelashes (often worse in the morning)
There are three main types of conjunctivitis; infective, allergic and irritant conjunctivitis. All types of conjunctivitis produce similar symptoms.
- Infective conjunctivitis is considered the most common type of conjunctivitis. Often, visits to a GP regarding eye health concerns are due to conjunctivitis. The infection can occur for viral or bacterial reasons.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is due to airborne pollen (often associated with hay fever) or an allergy to dust mites and animal fur. Sufferers of this type of conjunctivitis may also have symptoms of hay fever such as a runny nose, sneezing and throat sensitivity. It is not uncommon for people who have other allergies, such as asthma, to experience allergic conjunctivitis.
- Irritant conjunctivitis can occur when the eye is exposed to chemicals from aerosols, perfumes, deodorants, household cleaners and chlorinated water. It can also occur when the eye is irritated by a stray eyelash or from smoke and fumes. Contact dermatoconjunctivitis (irritation cause by eye drops or makeup) and giant papillary conjunctivitis (irritation resulting from the wearing of contact lenses or stitches in the eye) are two less common form of conjunctivitis.
Treatment of conjunctivitis depends on the cause. Often conjunctivitis will clear up of its own accord and several self-help measures such a bathing the eye with cool water and washing hands regularly will help relieve symptoms. There is also a wide range of eye drops available either over the counter or on prescription that can help to alleviate the symptoms of eye allergies. If conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction you may also be advised to use antihistamines (a drug which prevents symptoms of an allergic reaction from taking place) which are available in oral (a tablet or liquid taken by mouth) or eye drop form. But it is advisable to talk to your doctor who should be able to help you choose the best treatment.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request.
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Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 30 November 2015
Next review: 30 November 2018