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Conjunctivitis

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin layer which covers the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. It can affect one or both eyes, causing discomfort. The conditions is sometimes known as pinkeye.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of conjunctivitis can differ, based on the primary cause. However, pink, bloodshot or puffy eyes are a common indication you may have the condition. Other indicators can include itching, a burning feeling in the eye or sticky eyelashes, particularly when you wake in the morning.

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What are the causes?

In addition to infection from bacteria, viruses or other organisms, conjunctivitis can be caused by an inflammation or allergy.

Usually lasting for between two and three weeks, viral conjunctivitis tends to cause a watery red eye. In the majority of cases, it will not affect your vision. However, you may experience blurred vision or glare when looking at lights.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is more likely to cause a redness of the eye, accompanied by a sticky yellow discharge.

How is it treated?

The symptoms of most forms of conjunctivitis will normally clear on their own after a few weeks, so treatment isn’t always needed.

As it is not caused by bacteria, viral conjunctivitis does not respond to antibiotic drops. Of course, antibiotic drops can be helpful in cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, and are often prescribed for a one or two-week course.

Treatment of viral conjunctivitis often involves the use of artificial tears and over-the-counter painkillers, along with cold compresses and regular cleaning of the eyelids. Much like a cold or the flu, viral conjunctivitis will disappear when your body fights off the germs and becomes immune to the virus.

For severe cases of viral conjunctivitis, or when the cornea is affected, steroid drops can be are given. If you have any type of conjunctivitis, you should not wear contact lenses.

How can it be prevented?

Conjunctivitis can be easily spread through contact with infected items, such as pillowcases, tissues, towels and flannels, as well as through water droplets from coughing or sneezing.

As it is so contagious, thorough and frequent hand washing is absolutely essential if you are to avoid passing on the condition. You should also carefully dispose of tissues after use and avoid sharing flannels and towels.

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