What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye (conjunctiva). It is very common. People often refer to conjunctivitis as red eye. Other symptoms of conjunctivitis include itchiness and watering of the eyes, and sometimes a sticky coating on the eyelashes (if it’s caused by an allergy). Conjunctivitis can affect one eye at first, but usually affects both eyes after a few hours. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial infection, a virus, an allergy or an irritant. If treatment is necessary, the type of treatment will depend on the cause – your optician can advise you on the best course of action. Conjunctivitis often doesn’t require treatment as the symptoms usually clear up within a couple of weeks. In some cases, antibiotic eye drops or anti-histamine eye drops can be used to help clear the condition. It’s best not to wear contact lenses until the symptoms have cleared up. Any sticky or crusty coating on the eyelids or lashes can be cleansed with cotton wool and water. Washing your hands regularly and avoiding sharing pillows or towels will help prevent it spreading. See your optician immediately if you have:
  • eye pain
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • disturbed vision
  • intense redness in one or both of your eyes