Conjunctivitis is quite common and luckily at least 50% of cases will resolve by themselves even by doing nothing.
So what happens to the other 50% that do not resolve by themselves - what could be the cause and more importantly which causes of conjunctivitis do we need to concern ourselves with?
This is a tough question, as conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the conjunctiva around the white part of the eye in virtually all cases is easily treatable. There are exceptions though. Occasionally one or both eyes can be red, inflamed and in some form of pain.
The following is not a complete list but examples of inflamed eyes that are not conjunctivitis are:
- Inflamed Pterygium
- Inflamed Pinguecula
- Herpetic Eye Disease
It is for this reason that it is a good idea to see a therapeutically trained optometrist. The optometrist using his/her specialised equipment will be able to work out what needs to be done. If it is a more complex condition they will know where to refer for the most effective treatment.
Conditions like scleritis for example are beyond the scope of a therapeutically trained optometrist and really require an ophthalmologist that is trained in ocular inflammation to take over the case as it normally implies a systemic condition.
Often laboratory testing is required to differentiate an underlying systemic condition that could be contributing to the eye inflammation. Trying to treat the eye without paying particular attention to the systemic problem possibly will not settle down the eye and more importantly delaying systemic treatment for scleritis could have serious repercussions.
Scleritis is chronic, can be quite painful and potentially blinding. It is associated with auto immune diseases like lupus, giant cell arteritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Testing for these conditions and then treating them is critical to trying to resolve the severely inflamed and painful eye.
Recently we found an article about a mother who took her younger son to the GP for eye drops for a conjunctivitis. She not only used the drops on the younger son but also on the older son, thinking that if it is contagious maybe treating both sons was a good idea.
On trying to put the drops in the older son noticed that his pupil was white and on being referred on to an ophthalmologist was discovered that he had a rare life threatening eye condition called retinoblastoma.
The full story can be READ HERE.
The moral to the story is that even though a red eye potentially could be a conjunctivitis that will resolve by itself; a red eye occasionally can be something much more serious.
If you are worried about any red eye condition call and make an appointment with Dr Jim Kokkinakis on 9290 1899, who will either treat the cause in house, or make a timely referral to someone that is highly specialised in the more complex conditions like scleritis.