The symptoms are familiar to most people - it starts with waking up with gummy eyelids and the feeling of "something stuck in your eye". Before long, pus and tears are leaking from your poor, sore eye. Conjunctivitis, 'pink eye' or 'sore eyes' as it is more commonly known, is an inflammation of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines the eyeball. Affecting both adults and children equally, it is most commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and less frequently, by allergies or improper contact lens use.
The symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
You can also identify the type of conjunctivitis you have from the type of discharge coming from your eye. Viral conjunctivitis usually produces a watery or mucous-like discharge while bacterial conjunctivitis often produces a thicker, yellow-green discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis may also be accompanied by a respiratory infection or sore throat.
While it sounds terrible, the good news is that conjunctivitis is rarely serious and will not damage your vision if detected and treated promptly.
Treating Sore Eyes
If you suspect you have conjunctivitis, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you are diagnosed to have bacterial conjunctivitis, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotic eye drops or an antibiotic ointment to clear the infection. Even though your eyes should look and feel better within a couple of days, it's important to use the drops for as long as the doctor has prescribed. Otherwise, the infection may re-occur. If it is a virus that is behind your conjunctivitis, antibiotic drops or ointments will not help. The eye infection will get better as your body fights off the virus. It can take up to three weeks for viral conjunctivitis to clear, according to the HPB.
You should also avoid going to work (or not send your kid, if he or she has conjunctivitis, to school or daycare) until the symptoms improve. In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to minimise the risk of infecting your family members:
Avoid contact lenses until the infection is gone
You can also use a warm compress, such as a washcloth soaked in warm water, on your eye for a few minutes, three to four times a day. This will help soothe your eye and break up any crust that might form on your eyelashes.
Conjunctivitis is highly infectious and can spread in areas where people live, work and play in close proximity. The best way to protect yourself from the spread of infectious conjunctivitis is by practising good hygiene: