Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis (also known as red or pink eye) can occur as a result of bacterial or viral infections or after an eye injury.

Overview

Conjunctivitis (also known as red or pink eye) can occur as a result of bacterial or viral infections or after an eye injury. It causes redness in the eye, pain and sticky eyelids. Hand hygiene can prevent infection, and the doctor can prescribe eye drops/ointment to treat an infection.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Reddening of conjunctiva
  • Itching, watery eye, light sensitivity
  • Swollen eyelids and conjunctiva
  • Sticky eyelids after sleeping
  • Watery or slimy discharge (discharge of pus if bacterial infection)

Other symptoms

  • Punctiform bleeding or haematoma
  • Pain, burning
  • Foreign body sensation in the eye

General flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes at the angle of the jaw mostly occur with viral infections.

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Infection caused by viruses or bacteria
  • Dirty or damaged contact lenses
  • Allergies
  • Eye injury, foreign body in the eye, dust, smoke
  • “Dry eye” owing to insufficient tear secretion (e.g. in advanced age)
  • Sunlight, very bright light (e.g. when welding)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • A thorough examination of the eyes requires special devices that are only available to an eye specialist
  • Smear test (search for pathogens under a microscope)
  • Allergy test
Possible therapies
  • Eye drops/ointments (antibiotics for bacterial infections, anti-viral medication for viral infections)
  • Lubricating eye drops (“artificial tears”)

What can I do myself?

  • Don’t touch, scratch or rub the eyes (worsens the infection)
  • Wash hands regularly, in particular after touching the eyes
  • Don't share wash cloths or other washing utensils with other people
  • Use eye drops/ointment only until the expiration date
  • Wear sunglasses outside (to protect the eyes)

When to see a doctor?

  • There’s a yellow discharge
  • The infection doesn’t clear up within 24 hours
  • The infection recurs frequently
  • Increasing light sensitivity or eye pain
  • If you can't remove a foreign body in the eye by yourself
  • Injury with acid or lye
  • Impairment of vision
  • Pain deep in the eye socket
  • One-sided pupillary change (change in size, form of pupil)

Synonyms

Conjunctivitis, pink eye, red eye

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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