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  • Writer's pictureDr Andy Raffles

Conjunctivitis: (Pink eye) Bacterial, Viral, Allergic & Other Types

Many children come through our office with red, irritated, itchy eyes because parents or schools are worried about infection.

In the springtime, most cases are actually due to allergies, not infections, and are therefore not contagious. The lining of the eye and eyelids is called the conjunctiva, and hence inflammation is termed conjunctivitis.

How do I tell if it’s allergies or infection?

  • Bacteria – when the eyes are red with yellow or green drainage oozing or crusting in the eye throughout the day and night, then bacteria are usually the culprit. The eyelids may also be swollen. Affects one or both eyes. Due to the amount of inflammation can be uncomfortable. Usually copious mucus and crusting are seen.

  • Virus – when the eyes are very red, but there is no drainage or only a small amount of mucus which if it dries is crusting. Usually noted on waking up, then it is probably viral conjunctivitis. Usually affects both eyes.

  • Allergy – allergic conjunctivitis is usually seasonal, mostly in the spring. The eyes are usually red with increased tears, perhaps a small amount of white drainage, and unusually itchy. Usually affects both eyes.

  • Foreign body – a piece of sand or dirt stuck under the eyelid can cause redness, tearing, pain and drainage. Usually affects one eye. Can cause intense local pain on opening the affected eye after sleeping, due to intense local irritation of the cornea. Usually heals very quickly.

How do I treat allergic conjunctivitis?

  • Cool compress – hold a cool, wet washcloth against the eye and gently wipe away any drainage.

  • Saline eye drops – or artificial tears can soothe the eye, whatever the cause. These can also be used to flush out any pollen that accumulates in the eye.

  • Allergy eye drops (Medication) – there are several prescription drops that can help alleviate eye allergies. There is also an over-the-counter antihistamine eye drop that can help.

Do I need to see the doctor about this?

If the symptoms are mild and controlled with the above treatments, then you may not need to see a doctor, however if the symptoms are more severe, or not improving with these treatments, it may be helpful to make an appointment with our Practice. Any intense painful swelling of the eye or the eye lids should be checked out as soon as possible as very rarely the eye itself may be involved in some form of inflammation or infection.

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