Conjunctivitis, also known as Pink Eye (or just simple Red Eyes), is a common consultation for the local GP. As we discussed in a previous post, most Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye will resolve by itself over the course of a few days.
But that doesn’t mean we should be complacent! There are umpteen reasons why eyes get red, inflamed and irritable. Conjunctivitis is commonly caused by a virus, or by seasonal allergy, rather than a bacterial infection. Red Eyes can also be due to tear film issues (Dry Eye), injury or acute inflammation of one of the eye’s structures (e.g. uveitis).
Getting an accurate diagnosis and therefore accurate treatment is not that straightforward. A Therapeutically Trained Optometrist has the qualification, the experience and, importantly, the equipment to get to the bottom of the problem. They can also prescribe the appropriate medication (if any) for your red eye.
Your local GP is certainly qualified to diagnose your eye problem, but rarely has the appropriate equipment to magnify the eyes to the level required for accurate diagnosis. Optometrists in general have magnifying equipment called a Slit Lamp Biomicroscope that allows detailed viewing of the delicate structures of the eyes.
The image on the left is of an optometrist examining a patient, whilst the image on the right is the type of detail that can be observed. It is not possible to get this with the naked eye plus a pen torch that the GP in most cases would use. The GP just does not have the volume of eye issues coming in on a daily basis that would justify investment in a Slit Lamp Biomicroscope. So what do most GPs normally do with a red eye? Depending on perceived severity, in most cases they will prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic called Chlorsig.
This comes in both eye drops and an ointment form.
Millions of prescriptions per year are written for Chlorsig, which until recently was available by prescription only from a pharmacy. It is not possible that in a population the size of Australia that one in 5 people every year have a red eye that is caused by a bacterial infection. GPs will default to Chlorsig just in case it is a bacterial infection (which in most cases it is not).
If you think you have some form of Conjunctivitis call The Eye Practice now on 9290 1899 and make an appointment for an evaluation and a treatment plan. So what IS the most common cause of Conjunctivitis, Pink Eye or Red Eyes? We will answer this question and a whole host of other things to know about Conjunctivitis in upcoming posts.
This post was originally published in July 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.