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Infective conjunctivitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About infective conjunctivitis

Infective conjunctivitis is an inflammatory reaction in the conjunctiva of the eye, which results from microbial infection (bacteria and virus). Conjunctiva is the transparent covering over the white of the eye and inner surface of the eyelids. One or both eyes may be affected. Infective conjunctivitis is a self-limiting condition which resolves within a few days.

Infective conjunctivitis: Incidence, age and sex

Infective conjunctivitis is quite commonly encountered in the general population and may affect individuals of both sexes equally. Young children and elderly are more prone to this infection. In fact it is one of the commonest eye problems seen in civil society.

Signs and symptoms of infective conjunctivitis: Diagnosis

The predominant symptoms of infective conjunctivitis are redness and excessive discharge from the eye. This eye discharge causes sticking of the eyelashes, especially while sleeping. The eye discharge may be yellowish in case of bacterial infection or watery in viral infection. The affected individual may also complain of gritty sensation and irritation in the eyes. Sometimes intolerance to bright light (photo-sensitivity) may also be manifested in some individuals. One or both eyes may be affected.

The diagnosis is easily established on physical examination and investigations are not needed to corroborate the diagnosis. However in certain cases, slit lamp examination of the eye may be needed to establish the diagnosis, if any doubt persists.

Causes and prevention of infective conjunctivitis

Infective conjunctivitis is an eye infection caused by a bacteria or a virus. Viral aetiology is more common than that of bacterial. Infective conjunctivitis usually occurs concurrently with upper respiratory tract infections. Very rarely, conjunctivitis may occur as a complication of sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Infective conjunctivitis is a highly contagious eye disease which may rapidly spread from person to person.

Care must be taken to wash hands after touching the infected eyes or infected materials like linen, handkerchiefs, etc belonging to the infected individual. It is recommended not to send infected children to school to avoid spreading the infection.

Infective conjunctivitis: Complications

Infective conjunctivitis is a mild infection which usually resolves after a few days without any lasting effects. Infective conjunctivitis may have frequent relapses. Very seldom, the infection may spread to the cornea resulting in blurring of vision and intense pain.

Infective conjunctivitis: Treatment

The treatment of conjunctivitis depends upon the causative organism. Viral conjunctivitis may not need any treatment since it spontaneously resolves on its own within a week’s time. On the other hand, bacterial conjunctivitis may need antibiotic eye drops. However antibiotic drops may be prescribed even in cases of viral conjunctivitis to prevent secondary infection of viral conjunctivitis. Frequent washing of the eyes with clean water may help in soothing the eyes. Moreover, it is recommended to avoid wearing eye lenses till the infection has subsided. Anyway, infective conjunctivitis resolves completely within a few days, without any residual complications.