Conjunctivitis is a common condition which causes the surface of your eye to go red and, often, sticky or watery and your eye becomes sore.

What is conjunctivitis?

The surface membrane of your eye is known as the conjunctiva. It forms a thin transparent layer over the white of your eye and under your eyelids. Conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva.

It has several causes:

  • an infection (bacteria or viruses, usually flu or cold viruses)-infective conjunctivitis.
  • an allergy- allergic conjunctivitis.

What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?

Infective conjunctivitis can affect one eye or both eyes. The whites of your eyes can look inflamed, swollen and red. Your eyes may feel gritty, watery or sticky and your eyelids may become swollen and get stuck together, especially in the mornings. Your vision may be blurred due to tears or sticky discharge. You may also get flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, muscle ache, and feel generally unwell.

Types of conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis can be caused by infection from bacteria, viruses or other organisms, and also by allergy or inflammation.

Viral conjunctivitis tends to cause a watery red eye and can last for two to three weeks even with the correct treatment. In most cases viral conjunctivitis does not affect your vision but rarely you might notice your vision becomes blurry or you may see glare when looking at lights. This is due to an inflammatory reaction causing small white dots on the cornea, the transparent window at the front of the eye. These usually fade with time, but it can take a few weeks or even months.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is more likely to cause a red eye with a sticky yellow discharge.

Allergic conjunctivitis: allergic diseases happen when the immune system reacts to harmless substances like dust, grass or pollen. It is more common in those with a history of allergies or those who have a family history of allergies. Allergy tests are not helpful. The seasonal type of allergic conjunctivitis will vary with the time of year and weather conditions. Those with more general allergies (e.g. dust mites, animals) may have symptoms throughout the year.

Preventing conjunctivitis from spreading

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis is contagious and spreads very easily by water droplets (coughing, sneezing) or contact with tissues, flannels, towels, pillowcases and so on.  For that reason, it’s really important to wash your hands frequently and dispose of tissues after use to prevent the condition from spreading to other family members or work colleagues. 

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.

Conjunctivitis treatment is available at Moorfields Private

You can self-fund or use private medical insurance to fund your treatment.

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