Everything you need to know about conjunctivitis

Everything you need to know about conjunctivitis


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What is bacterial conjunctivitis? 

Conjunctivitis is an infection that affects the thin layer of tissue that covers part of the front of the eye and the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva). It is not normally serious and is sometimes referred to as pink or red eye.


What causes bacterial conjunctivitis?

Lots of different bacteria can cause conjunctivitis. Most often it’s bacteria from your own skin or respiratory system (nose and throat) that causes it.

You can also get bacterial conjunctivitis by:

  • coming into contact with somebody who has conjunctivitis
  • wearing contact lenses that are not clean
  • touching your eyes with unwashed hands
  • using contaminated eye make-up, facial lotions, or beauty products

It can also occur when you are run-down or your immune system is low, which is why many people get conjunctivitis when they have a cold.


How long does bacterial conjunctivitis last?

Conjunctivitis is normally self-limiting and will last about 2 weeks without treatment.  However, over the counter treatments such as Golden Eye® Eye Drops available from your pharmacy can help to relieve the symptoms within a few days, enabling you to get on with your day-to-day activities without the symptoms causing you too much inconvenience.

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4. What are the symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis? 

Conjunctivitis can affect one or more often both of your eyes, and the symptoms include:

  • redness of the white of your eye
  •  a watery or thick and sticky, yellow or green discharge from your eyes; they may be stuck together when you wake in the morning
  • blurry vision caused by discharge in and around your eye
  • a gritty feeling in your eye that can feel itchy or burn
  • swollen and itchy eyelids

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Is bacterial conjunctivitis contagious?

Conjunctivitis is very contagious and easily spread. It is important to avoid sharing towels and similar items with other people to help prevent spreading the infection.

The NHS advises that you don't need to stay away from work or school if you have conjunctivitis. However, if you work in close contact with others, or share equipment such as phones and computers, you should try not to share, and regularly clean the equipment and your hands until the discharge has cleared up. If there are several cases of conjunctivitis at your child's nursery, you may be advised to keep them away until the infection has cleared up.


What is the difference between Allergic conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is commonly caused by a sensitivity to grass and tree pollen, dust mites or animals. It is far more common in those with a history of allergies or those who have a family history of allergies.

Allergic conjunctivitis usually causes pink or red itchy eyes. The eyes are normally watery and other allergy symptoms such as sneezing, and a runny nose may be present. 

The seasonal type of allergic conjunctivitis will vary with the time of year and weather conditions. Those with more general allergies, such as an allergy to dust mites, will most likely have symptoms throughout the year.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis is an infection caused by bacteria, most often from your own skin or respiratory system (nose and throat) and can be caused by coming in contact with somebody who already has it, wearing contact lenses that are not clean, touching your eyes with unwashed hands, although sometimes it can occur when you are run down, or your immune system is low.

It normally causes redness of the white of your eye, a watery or thick and sticky yellow or green discharge, a gritty or itchy feeling in your eye and swollen, itchy eyelids.


Is Pink Eye the same as conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is also sometimes known as pink eye or red eye, mainly due to the redness it causes to the white of your eye.


Are there any long-term effects of conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is not normally serious, but if it doesn’t get better after two weeks with treatment from your pharmacist or your symptoms get worse, contact your pharmacist or GP.

Contact your GP straight away or get an urgent appointment with an optician if: 

  • you have pain inside your eyes
  • you become sensitive to light 
  • you have sudden changes to your vision

These may be signs of a more serious problem with your eyes.


What can I do to prevent bacterial conjunctivitis?

Hygiene is one of the most important things for keeping conjunctivitis at bay. 

Visit the Golden Rules of Eye Care page for tips and advice www.goldeneyecare.co.uk/care/