Conjunctivitis as previously discussed is an inflammation of the structure of the eye called the conjunctiva. To the lay person the eye looks red, watery and uncomfortable.
Conjunctivitis does not mean you have an eye infection that needs treating with an antibiotic. Conjunctivitis only means your eye or eyes need to be seen by a therapeutically trained optometrist to get to the bottom of the problem and possibly treated with appropriate medication.
Causes of Conjunctivitis
Here things can be simple to very complicated, which is why you need an expert to make the diagnosis. The following list is not complete but to give you an idea about some of the causes that can make your eye go red:
- Viral infection - this type of conjunctivitis is very common and is just as commonly treated inappropriately. It normally will not stick the eye lids together and the eye is watery.
- Irritants - there are many things that can just irritate the eye or eyes such as shampoo, make-up, cigarette smoke etc. The list can go on and on.
- Computer use - typically this will occur after many hours of use and especially in air-conditioning, which will dehydrate the eyes causing them to get gritty and red.
- Long Haul airflight - this is very hard on eyes, as the air in an aeroplane is dehumidified to the point that not only will your eyes get red and irritated but you can also get very dry skin, nose and mouth.
- Contact Lenses and Contact Lens solutions - At the Eye Practice our specialty is contact lenses. We spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to settle down contact lens induced conjunctivitis. This occurs because many patients do not comply with instructions that are clearly given by us or often they are referred by other practitioners who have not been able to fix the problem.
- Allergies - often these are seasonal and will most commonly occur during spring and autumn.
- Bacterial infection - even though this is not rare it is far less common than the above causes. Bacterial infection often has significant mucopurulent discharge which sticks the eyelids together in the morning. Bacterial conjunctivitis is significantly more common in children.
- Other causes - in future posts we will discuss each of the causes above and other more rare ones in detail. It is a very important topic and because conjunctivitis is so often misdiagnosed, it is imperative that we educate in depth around this topic.
Viral Conjunctivitis - watery discharge Bacterial Conjunctivitis - mucopurulent discharge
Treatment of Conjunctivitis
Now that we have made it clear that conjunctivitis is not necessarily an infection, hopefully it can be understood that treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis. At The Eye Practice we see a lot of conjunctivitis or pink eye as it is sometimes referred to.
Dr Jim Kokkinakis is therapeutically qualified to treat most of the cases and in the rare instances that he feels you need to see a corneal specialist, we will organise a local person that will see you immediately. A corneal specialist requires a referral from an optometrist.
In future posts on conjunctivitis (pink eye) we will discuss each cause one by one and the treatment of each cause will also then be discussed as it becomes relevant.