Swollen Red Eyes – Conjunctivitis?

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Dr. S.S. Gill, Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Fatimah Hospital

In our series on Eye Health, Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr. S.S. Gill talks to us about conjunctivitis.

You rub your eyes, but they won’t stop feeling uncomfortable and appear red as well as puffy. Your eyes don’t hurt, but the discomfort is annoying as it feels like you have an eyelash or a speck of sand in your eye.  Later on in the day you start developing yellow discharge. If you have these symptoms, it may likely be a common eye problem called conjunctivitis, better known as pinkeye.

What Is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the thin, clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. It is one of the most common eye infections and may start in one eye and then spread to the other eye.  It usually lasts only a short time, mostly for about a week or less with proper treatment. However, there are some varieties of conjunctivitis that may be prolonged and may need specialized treatment. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by irritants such as shampoos (causing chemical conjunctivitis), as well as pollen and dust (allergic conjunctivitis) or improper prolonged contact lens wear.

Types of Conjunctivitis

Pink eye is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. These types of conjunctivitis are contagious and you can get infected by contact – simply by touching the hand of a friend who has just touched his or her infected eyes. If you then touch your eyes, the infection can spread to you. The other way it can spread is by touching contaminated articles like door handles, arm-rests of chairs, and the sharing of towels with anyone who has conjunctivitis. And no, it does not spread by looking at a person with conjunctivitis.

The symptoms of pinkeye may include some or all of the following:

Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelids ; Increased amount of tears or discharge;thick discharge that has dried over the eyelashes, especially in the mornings after sleep; itchy and/or burning eyes; blurred vision; Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia).

Treating Conjunctivitis

As there are various types of causes for conjunctivitis, you should visit your doctor to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.  Antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial conjunctivitis. If the cause is viral, you will need to be patient as it may take a few weeks to settle. There would be a need for your doctor to look out for any complications that may occur during this time.

Contact lens wearers may contract conjunctivitis if they have been careless in handling their contact lenses or are sensitive to the multipurpose solutions.  You may find the following tips useful should you ever suffer from conjunctivitis: Avoid the use of eye makeup and do not wear contact lenses; Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes; Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to avoid spreading it; Don’t share common items such as towels, blankets and sunglasses.

For more information, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at 05-5455582, email: gilleyecentre@dr.com or visit www.fatimah.com.my.