Eye conjunctivitis (SYMPTOMS, CAUSES AND TREATMENT)
You’ve heard, maybe you’ve had, or you certainly know someone who has had conjunctivitis. In the text that follows, you will find a detailed guide in which we will answer the questions of what is conjunctivitis, what types of this eye disease exist, what causes conjunctivitis, how you can recognize the symptoms, how conjunctivitis can be treated naturally, and what is the connection between the corona virus and conjunctivitis.
What is conjunctivitis and what causes it?
Inflammation of the conjunctiva or conjunctivitis causes red, inflamed, and mucous eyes. Conjunctivitis is a common problem that occurs in one or both eyes, sometimes it resolves on its own, but in some cases, treatment is required. The causes are usually viral or bacterial infections and allergies, and sometimes it can be caused by a foreign body in the eye. Conjunctivitis in babies and small children is a common occurrence due to touching the eyes with dirty hands or other objects.
What is conjunctiva and what types of conjunctivitis are there?
The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane that has the function of maintaining the moisture of the eye and the inside of the eyelid. If the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, the eyes become red, irritated, and often watery. This is a sign that you are suffering from conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis is actually a group name for different types of eye inflammation:
Vernal conjunctivitis – inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. This is a common eye infection that mainly affects children between 5-15 years of age.
Viral conjunctivitis – eye inflammation that occurs on the cornea and connective tissue of the eye. The incubation period is several days before the condition develops into acute conjunctivitis. Stronger pain may be felt in the eyes and head. It usually lasts a few days and goes away without treatment.
Chronic conjunctivitis – This inflammation of the eye is a chronic conjunctivitis that is the result of allergies and can occur without explanation. Chronic eye inflammation or allergic conjunctivitis comes and goes on its own.
There are several reasons why conjunctivitis occurs. Common causes of conjunctivitis are viral or bacterial infections that are temporary. These types of conjunctivitis are also called eye inflammation. Dry eyes or inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) and allergies are other causes of conjunctivitis.
Also, one of the most common causes is that inflammation occurs when you have a cold or a sore throat. If a certain virus is present in the body, then it is easily transmitted to sensitive eyes. Another reason for infection is that we often touch our eyes with our hands or are near someone else who has conjunctivitis, so the virus is transmitted through the air.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis
Symptoms can vary depending on what caused the conjunctivitis.
The most common symptoms of all types of conjunctivitis are:
eye pain and itchy eyes
sensitivity to light
swelling and redness in the eyes
scratching sensation in the eyes
Dry eyes can also cause conjunctivitis. Irritated eyes and redness are frequent manifestations in this case. People suffering from conjunctivitis may also have frequent headaches.
If you have an infection caused by a virus or bacteria, your eyes can then become red, watery, and sticky – you have a scratching sensation when you blink. Conjunctivitis of this type is often associated with colds and sore throats. The duration of treatment is usually from 5 to 7 days, depending on the doctor’s advice. In case you need an ophthalmological examination due to conjunctivitis – you can schedule your appointment here.
With allergic conjunctivitis, the eyes can be very red, often very itchy, and swelling can also occur. In this case, if you feel pain in your eyes, photophobia, have very bloodshot eyes, or have visual disturbances, it may be the result of a more serious disease of both eyes, such as acute glaucoma, keratitis, or iritis. In this case, seek medical help immediately.
Conjunctivitis – treatment in adults and children
How conjunctivitis is treated depends on the type and form of inflammation. Your ophthalmologist will first take a swab for analysis and determine the type and degree of blood supply to the conjunctiva – that is, analyze how much inflammation the conjunctiva has. Conjunctivitis caused by a virus usually disappears on its own within seven days if it is caused by adenovirus (viruses that cause colds and bronchitis), but adequate care is required. It is very transitory for the first 10 or so days. Self-care or helping your child in the form of cleaning with lukewarm water and a clean towel or pad can certainly alleviate the discomfort. If the inflammation worsens or does not stop, you should contact an ophthalmologist for an examination and possible adequate help in further treatment.
Also, conjunctivitis can sometimes be caused by another group of viruses, including herpes simplex, HIV, zoster virus, and picorna virus.
In the case of bacterial conjunctivitis, treatment with antibiotics can be started. The duration of treatment depends on the doctor’s decision, but it is generally one week. With bacterial conjunctivitis, it is important to note that sometimes discharge and redness do not necessarily occur. For example, chlamydia is one of the bacteria that can cause conjunctivitis without severe redness and discharge in the eyes. Bacterial chlamydia infection can be very serious, so in this case, the patient will have to request sick leave.
If your conjunctivitis is due to allergies, you can treat it with eye drops or allergy pills. Problems with dry and irritated eyes can be solved with eye drops and ointments. Conjunctivitis caused by inflammation of the eyelids is usually treated by cleaning the edges of the eyelids. Pollen is one of the most common causes of allergic conjunctivitis.
Coronavirus and inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye
Can Covid-19 be associated with conjunctivitis, we wrote in more detail in our earlier text. You can read more details here. Certainly, our eyes can be an entry portal for the coronavirus. Since the surface of the eyes as well as the inside of the eyelids is lined with a mucous membrane called the conjunctiva, just like the respiratory tract, if droplets from an infected person land in your eye, it is possible that they could infect you. This is a phenomenon that should not be surprising considering that the eyes, nose, and throat are connected. Namely, there is a tear duct in the eyelid that is directly connected to the back of the throat. If the coronavirus is in your tears, there is a danger that it will enter your mouth and respiratory tract through the drainage system.
Given that not enough is known about the coronavirus, all discussions about how and whether the virus can be transmitted through the eyes are preliminary and this cannot yet be determined with certainty.
Inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye and natural treatment
When it comes to natural remedies for conjunctivitis, there are several treatments that you can practice. Here we bring you some tips on how you can treat conjunctivitis in a natural way.
Water is a natural, simple, and inexpensive way to treat conjunctivitis. A cold compress on the affected eye can help with healing and provide a sense of relief. It is important not to press the eye, but to place the dressing gently on the affected eye. Do not use the used dressing in the next treatment. You can practice the treatment with cold compresses several times during the day when treating conjunctivitis.
Red echinacea tea
This tea is one of the natural ingredients for strengthening the immune system that fights viruses and bacteria. Echinacea tea can be used as a prevention or treatment, but only for a short period until you feel improvement. Consume it little by little throughout the day when treating conjunctivitis.
Chamomile is an effective herb for eye problems because it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that relieve the symptoms of eye conjunctivitis and speed up recovery. Prepare chamomile tea and apply it to your eyes by dipping a towel in the liquid. In this way, the tea acts on the eyelids, and the eyes absorb the liquid. Use the compress 2-3 times a day when treating conjunctivitis.
Maintaining personal hygiene
One of the most important things in the care and health of our eyes is maintaining personal hygiene. Proper hygiene is important for treating eye inflammation, but also for preventing the spread of the disease.
Additional tips for treating conjunctivitis naturally:
avoid rubbing the eyes
do not touch your eyes with dirty fingers
use a special towel for the affected eye
if you wear contact lenses, maintain your hygiene
avoid the use of cosmetics during the treatment of conjunctivitis
If you have a certain inflammation in your body, the reason for this is a high level of acidity in that part of your body. That’s why it’s important to consume alkaline foods that regulate the pH level of acidity in the body. Some of these foods are garlic, banana, avocado, lemon, grapefruit, watermelon, cayenne pepper, dried fruits and seeds.
Natural eye drops
To make the overall treatment more successful, you can also use natural eye drops made from medicinal plants. Of course, with natural drops, consult your ophthalmologist before treatment. You can schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist by clicking on this link.
There are natural supplements that are effective in preventing and treating eye problems. Here are the vitamins that are good to use for this healing treatment:
Vitamin A: found in foods rich in carotene and beta-carotene
B group vitamins: very useful for health
Vitamin C: strengthens the immune system and helps in better absorption of vitamins A and E
Vitamin E: prevents vision damage due to free radicals
Of course, before all-natural treatment methods, consult with your ophthalmologist, in order to avoid unwanted complications and treat the inflammation in the most optimal way.
Conjunctivitis is usually diagnosed by your ophthalmologist when he examines your eyes, and later by analyzing a smear. If you have any of the above symptoms, inform your ophthalmologist about the specific symptoms and how they started. This will help in diagnosing the type of conjunctivitis and help with treatment methods.
In order to prevent this disease, it is important to follow the above-mentioned advice in terms of maintaining personal hygiene, not sharing towels with other people, not touching the eyes with dirty hands, etc. Since we know that conjunctivitis is an infectious disease, if children have conjunctivitis, it is recommended to stay at home for a few days to prevent the spread of the infection to others. Sometimes children may also have a high temperature.
Infectious conjunctivitis usually resolves spontaneously and often does not require medical treatment. The patient is advised to rinse the affected eye with water, to maintain eye hygiene and not to wear contact lenses for a certain period of time. This basic treatment is the same for both viral and bacterial infections. In the case of bacterial conjunctivitis where there is purulent discharge, local antibiotic therapy can be prescribed to shorten the treatment time.
In the first place, fusidic acid is recommended, which acts mainly on staphylococci, the most common cause of bacterial conjunctivitis. Combined preparations containing antibiotics and steroids should generally not be used for conjunctivitis. If no effect is achieved with antibiotic treatment within about seven days, this may indicate that the cause of the infection is a virus. Conjunctivitis can also be a sub-symptom of another infection, such as chlamydia or a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract.
Eye inflammation is easily transmitted, and for this reason, it is again important to note that maintaining personal hygiene is the first priority in the prevention of conjunctivitis.
We hope that with this text we have managed to answer all your potential questions and doubts you had regarding the term conjunctivitis of the eye. Below we recommend that you also read: Coronavirus and eye health (EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW)
Bojan Kozomara (Banja Luka, December 30, 1978) is a Doctor of Science, Doctor of Medicine, specialist in ophthalmology, and the director of the special hospital for ophthalmology "Dr. Kozomara" in Banja Luka.
In his hometown, he completed both high school and medical school, and in 2009, he specialized in the field of ophthalmology. In 2021, he became a Doctor of Medical Sciences in the field of ophthalmology, and he honed his profession at the Clinic for Eye Diseases, Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, Serbia, and at the Oculistica Universita "Careggi" Clinic in Florence, Italy. After completing his specialization in Italy, he decided to return to his native Banja Luka and start a private clinic there, which in a very short time became popular and recognizable in the region, as well as in the world.