Conjunctivitis

istock_photo_of_woman_holding_tissue_to_reddened_eyeOne of the most common eye conditions we see in general practice is conjunctivitis. If you have had a child, the chances are that your kid has had a bout of this annoying eye condition.

The conjunctiva is a thin clear layer that covers the sclera “the white part of the eye” and the inner surface of the eyelids. When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed it gives rise to conjunctivitis.

Now conjunctivitis can be the result of three main causes.

  1. Allergies
  2. Bacterial infections
  3. Viral infections

In Allergic Conjunctivitis, an allergen inflames the eyes leading to a watery discharge and is often associated with itch and burning.  Main stay treatment for this is often an antihistamine drop of some kind.

In Bacterial Conjunctivitis, the trigger is bacteria (no surprises there). Presenting complaint is often of gritty dry eyes and a gunky yellowish/greenish discharge. While often treatment is an antibacterial drop. Warm compress to remove the gunk from the eye is often beneficial to treat the condition. Both eyes are usually affected.

In Viral conjunctivitis, the eye is usually itchy and weepy. Often allergic conjunctivitis and viral conjunctivitis are rather hard to differentiate in young children. We often assume its viral if their is no clear history of allergies and its associated symptoms e.g. sneezing, runny nose etc. Another clue to viral conjunctivitis is concurrent presence of a common cold. Treatment is conservative and warm compress is the mainstay of treatment.

Conjunctivitis in general is a self limiting condition and will usually resolve on its own. If your doctor does diagnose a viral or bacterial infection you need to be well aware that this condition is highly contagious. Good hand hygiene is paramount to stopping its spread.

Your child will often not be allowed to return to daycare if they have this condition.

As with all eye conditions we encourage you to see your family doctor for review  – your little one has two eyes and conjunctivitis presents similarly to many other eye conditions that need prompt treatment.

I have mentioned “warm compress” a few times above. For those that are unaware what that means, you simply get some cotton balls, wet them in warm water and try to rub the eyes in one direction – cleaning the “gunk”. Make sure you discard them after use and wash your hands.

The advice provided on healthykid.com.au is of a general nature and in no way should replace your therapeutic relationship with your doctor

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