Conjunctivitis is a very common infection of the eye. It is caused by inflammation of the membranes that cover the white of the eye otherwise known as the conjunctiva.

Almost all eye-infections can be prevented by frequent hand-washing, attention to correct cleaning techniques of contact lenses, individual towels and by not sharing make-up or application instruments.

Sign And Symptoms

There are four main types of conjunctivitis, all with the same characteristics and symptoms. These are, redness, bloodshot eyes, swelling, soreness, discharge (this may be so severe it can cause the eyelids to temporarily fuse together), itching and a feeling of grittiness. Each type of conjunctivitis may present with some or all of these symptoms.

Bathing Of the Eyes

Bathing the eyes means using warm, not hot, water and cotton or gauze pads. Each eye should be swabbed once from the inside corner to the outside edge, using each pad once then discarding. The same pad should never be used for both eyes. The use of cotton wool is not recommended as the tiny fibres can get into the eye and cause irritation and a place for germs to grow.

Every individual should have their own flannel and towel, which should be washed regularly and never shared.

Neonatal Conjunctivitis

As the title suggests this occurs in newborns. It is usually caused from maternal gonorrhoea that is passed to the baby during delivery. It is a serious condition that needs immediate medical treatment to preserve vision.

Treated with anti-biotics, both oral and eye drops given at very regular intervals until seeping of the eyes has ceased is the preferred method therapy.

Stringent hand-washing of all personnel involved with the care of the baby, including the family, is vital to prevent the spread of infection.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

This is a very common form of infection and affects people of all ages. It is highly contagious and is spread easily through person to person contact.

Eyes should be bathed regularly with warm water followed by application of eye-drops prescribed by the GP. Children should be kept at home until symptoms have subsided.


Trachoma is an infection of both the conjunctiva and the cornea (the pouch that covers and protects the pupil and iris at the front of the eye). It is very common in young children and is noticeable from having inflamed eyelids and inflammation of the white of the eye. If left untreated, as in many third world countries, the cornea can become permanently scarred and vision may be lost. Many singular infections heal by the practice of regular bathing, though recurrent infections warrant the use of eye drops, ointment or oral anti-biotics.

Viral Conjunctivitis

This normally begins in one eye, but will usually spread to both and sometimes occurs as a result of a fever or sore throat. Regular bathing and protection from bright light is usually all the treatment that is necessary.

Conjunctivitis is a very common complaint, especially in children. Hand-washing and regular bathing coupled with the use of anti-biotics, if needed, should be enough to treat this condition. Always wash your hands prior to inserting eye-drops or ointment and repeat after giving the medication.

The eye-medications given for conjunctivitis are to be discarded immediately after treatment has finished, and no two sufferers should share a bottle or tube.

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