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What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye. It is a common condition and doesn’t usually require any invasive treatment. However, if there is sticky pus or excessive redness, it could be contagious and should be treated to prevent it spreading.

Conjunctivitis can be infective, allergic or irritant.

Infective conjunctivitis is the result of a bacterial or viral infection.

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when you have an allergic reaction to something, e.g. pollen (hayfever). This kind of conjunctivitis is not contagious.

Irritant conjunctivitis occurs when something irritates your eye, such as shampoo or a stray eyelash.

How do I know I’ve got conjunctivitis?

Your eyes will be red and sore as a result of the inflammation. There may also be watering or discharge, which can make your eyes and lashes sticky.

Usually one eye is infected first, and the infection spreads to the other eye in a few hours.

How to treat conjunctivitis

In all cases of conjunctivitis, it is important to remove your contact lenses if you wear them to keep irritation to a minimum and allow the condition to resolve and respond to eye drops if prescribed. Once your eyes have recovered, it is important to use new lenses, solutions and contact lens cases to prevent the infection from recurring.

It is important to wash your hands every time you touch your eye, to prevent the spread of infection.

Lubricating eye drops from your local pharmacy can help relieve discomfort if present.

If there is any discharge, clean it away gently with cotton wool and water.

If your conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction such as hayfever, anti-histamines will usually help.

If your conjunctivitis has not cleared up after two weeks, consult your GP or eye doctor if you have direct access to one. Your GP may prescribe antibiotic drops or ointment.

Please note that you cannot have laser eye surgery if you have conjunctivitis – please wait until your eyes have recovered.