Conjunctivitis, commonly known as Red Eye or Pink Eye, is possibly one of the most misunderstood eye conditions that we encounter at The Eye Practice. In this condition, the membrane covering the white part of the eye (sclera) is inflamed and red.
It does not tell us anything about what has caused the eye to be inflamed or red.We have a great video with more information in our website. More on conjunctivitis can be found on our website under education.
Until recently depending upon perceived severity, a patient would show up to their local pharmacy and request over the counter treatment for their red irritated eyes. The assumption made by the pharmacist or other staff member is that the eye is infected and then dispenses an eye drop called "Bleph-10". This is a sulphur based antibiotic.
The problem with this diagnosis is that if the red eye is in fact caused by an infection - what type of infection? "Bleph-10" can only treat bacterial infections and is less than 50% effective against all strains of bacteria.
Bleph -10 has, in the last few years, been replaced by Chlorsig, as the go-to drop, as it can be dispensed at a pharmacy without a prescription. This is a whole new story about treatment of conjunctivitis. This does not work either in most cases.
The next question is:
Of all eye infections how many are bacterial in nature?
Interestingly not many! Less than 5% of them are bacterial and if you look in Wikipedia under conjunctivitis management of all conjunctivitis with no specific diagnosis "Conjunctivitis resolves in 65% of cases without treatment, within two to
five days. The prescribing of antibiotics to most cases is not
Once we understand the prevalence of bacterial conjunctivitis (which is relatively small) and that Bleph-10 is ineffective against most bacteria anyway, why is it that Bleph-10 is one of the most purchased eyes drops over the counter. The answer is simple; most of the time the conjunctivitis will resolve by itself in 2 - 5 days and it appears to the patient and the pharmacist that the Bleph-10 did the job.
Believe it or not there are many millions of bottles of Bleph-10 and more so of Chlorsig sold over the counter every year, even though it is relatively useless. To make matters worse quite a number of patients are sensitive or allergic to the preservatives in Bleph-10. Continual use of these drops can cause a condition called Eye Conjunctivitis Medicamentosa. This can be a little tricky to settle down.
Conjunctivitis MedicamentosaProbably the best and most convenient practitioner to see about conjunctivitis is a Therapeutically Qualified Optometrist. At The Eye Practice we have a special interest in treating eye disease and are therapeutically qualified. This means we can prescribe eye drops that are not available over the counter. More importantly you will be prescribed eye drops that are specific for your conjunctivitis and not just get a guess.
In our next post about conjunctivitis, red eye and pink eye we will discuss the most common eye drop that is prescribed by GP's and why in most cases it also is inappropriate.