The main manifestation indicating conjunctivitis is pronounced redness of the eyes and purulent or watery discharge from the eyes. Conjunctivitis most often has an infectious origin, but it can also be associated with trauma, irritation, or allergy to the eyes. “Red eyes” are often a manifestation of dry eye syndrome. Conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye diseases, so you should not lose sight of the main eye care products in-home or travel first aid kits.
What is conjunctiva?
The conjunctiva (Latin Tunica conjunctiva) is a thin mucous membrane covering the inside of the eyelids and the visible part of the white substance. The conjunctiva got its name because it simply connects the eyeball with the eyelids. The area between the eye and the eyelid is called the conjunctival sac. The conjunctiva is important for the smooth sliding of the eyelids when blinking and moving the eyes, but it also performs an important protective function, since it contains several types of cells of the immune system, which are key to protecting against the penetration of pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, pollutants) from the external environment. The conjunctiva is entwined with a network of thin vessels that are difficult to see with the naked eye, but in case of inflammation, it is strongly perfused and red-eye syndrome develops.
How is conjunctivitis manifested?
In addition to the already mentioned redness of the eye, the symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
Lacrimation, watery discharge
Itching, burning, or sore eyes
The sensation of a foreign body in the eye
Purulent secret closed eyes after waking up
There may be swelling of the eyelids.
With normal conjunctivitis, visual acuity does not worsen.
Symptoms may occur in one or both eyes.
Why does conjunctivitis occur?
The most common cause of conjunctivitis is a viral or bacterial infection. Conjunctivitis is often associated with inflammation of the respiratory tract. Bacterial infections are more common in spring and summer, and viral infections are more common in winter and autumn. With bacterial inflammations (streptococci, staphylococci, etc.), the already mentioned purulent secret may be present, with viral conjunctivitis, in addition to redness, lacrimation or rare watery secretion are typical. Viral conjunctivitis is most often caused by adenoviruses or a virus that usually causes herpes (herpes simplex) – in this case, blisters may be present. If the inflammation lasts longer with periodic improvement, then chlamydia infection may be the cause.
Bacterial conjunctivitis also occurs in newborns (caused by bacteria present in the birth canal), so there is always pine water on the list for the maternity hospital. Rinsing the baby’s eyes as soon as possible after birth reduces the risk of conjunctivitis.
Contact lens wearers may have infectious conjunctivitis associated with wearing lenses, it is less common than other types, and is called acanthamoeba keratoconjunctivitis (a conjunctival and corneal disease caused by protozoa – acanthamoebae). It is characterized by very severe pain, and its treatment is within the competence of an ophthalmologist. Prevention is the strict observance of the hygienic recommendations given in the leaflets for contact lenses.
Allergic conjunctivitis or allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an overreaction of the immune system to allergens (pollen, house dust mites, animal allergens). It is manifested by itching of both eyes, lacrimation and is usually accompanied by symptoms from the nose (itching, runny nose) and sneezing. Allergic conjunctivitis can be seasonal or permanent.
What can I do on my own with conjunctivitis and when to see a doctor?
Treatment of conjunctivitis, as well as other diseases, depends on the cause and severity of the disease. Of course, if the difficulties are very serious, the condition is constantly deteriorating or you are worried about its development, it is advisable to find a doctor who will prompt further treatment. A visit to the doctor is also necessary for severe pain in the eyes or deterioration of visual acuity.
Infectious conjunctivitis: for infectious conjunctivitis, we use drugs with disinfecting properties in the form of drops or ointments as soon as possible after the appearance of problems. In the case of purulent conjunctivitis, we also wash the eyes with coniferous water before using the drugs. If the condition does not improve quickly, you should consult a doctor who, if necessary, will prescribe other medications, such as antibiotics.
Infectious conjunctivitis can be very contagious, so it is necessary to observe increased hygiene (own towel, frequent hand washing, not getting into the eyes). With conjunctivitis, it is advisable not to wear contact lenses until full recovery. In case of infectious inflammation, warm wet compresses can be applied for relief (10 minutes).
Allergic conjunctivitis: the first recommendation for acute allergic eye problems is to limit contact with allergens and rinse the eyes. Relief is also brought by moisturizers from the category of artificial tears. At the next stage, special antiallergic ophthalmic drugs come into play (decongestants against congestion and edema and antihistamines to suppress an allergic reaction). In case of allergic eye irritation, cool compresses are pleasant. (They will also help with eye pain or swelling of the eyelids.)
The correct use of ophthalmic drugs is important.
Ophthalmic drugs exist in the form of drops, gels, ointments, and solutions. Drops have a slightly shorter duration of action, but unlike gels or ointments, they do not form a film on the surface of the eye and do not impair vision. It is recommended to apply the ointment only at night. When applying eye drops, doctors recommend squeezing the inner corner with your finger to limit the outflow of drops through the tear ducts. The drops are applied sitting (you can in front of a mirror), the lower eyelid is removed with your fingers, and drops or ointment are applied to the conjunctival sac. Then it is best to hold out for 3 minutes with your eyes closed. Eye solutions are suitable for the smell of irritating substances or foreign bodies. The method of application of different products may vary slightly, so you should carefully read the information sheet before using it.