Following Specsavers and the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) State of The Nation report 2017 – which reports that ten times more people (78%) said sight was the sense they fear losing most - Stowmarket store director, Hillary Hayes, has shared her advice on how to watch out for one of the most common eye conditions, conjunctivitis.

What is conjunctivitis? 

Conjunctivitis is a common condition that results in redness and inflammation of the front of the eye on the thin layer of tissue that covers it called the conjunctiva. The condition is also known as red/pink eye. 

What causes the condition?

Conjunctivitis is caused when the conjunctiva becomes inflamed. This can be a result of:

  • A bacterial or viral infection (infective conjunctivitis).
  • Allergic reactions to pollen and dust mites (allergic conjunctivitis). 
  • The eye coming into contact with a foreign object that could irritate the conjunctiva, such as shampoo, chlorine or even a loose eyelash rubbing against the eye (irritant conjunctivitis).

How can I tell if I have conjunctivitis?

The condition usually affects both eyes and is noticeable from the following:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • A burning or gritty feeling
  • Pus that sticks to the eyelashes
  • Itchiness
  • Watering of the eyes

How is it treated?

As a minor eye condition, treatment isn’t usually needed for conjunctivitis, because symptoms often clear quickly, usually in a couple of weeks. Where treatment is needed, the type of treatment will depend on the cause:

  • In severe cases, antibiotic eye drops will be used to clear the infection. 
  • Irritant conjunctivitis clears as soon as the cause is removed. 
  • Allergic conjunctivitis is usually treated with anti-allergy medication such as antihistamines. If possible, avoid the substance that triggered the allergy. 
  • Try to avoid contact lenses until the symptoms have cleared up.
  • Any sticky or crusty coating on the eyelids or lashes can be cleansed with cotton wool and water.  

How can I prevent/reduce my risk of the condition?

Generally, the best way to prevent conjunctivitis is to keep your eyes protected when playing sport or taking part in any activities where you could be at risk of foreign bodies or bacteria getting into and damaging your eyes.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know is suffering from an eye condition, book a sight test – they generally take 20 minutes and could save your sight. 

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