If you have redness, itching, and discharge from your eye, you may have conjunctivitis—inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and eyeball. The good news is there are plenty of easy ways to treat this condition at home! Here’s everything you need to know about conjunctivitis and how to cure it quickly and effectively.
What is conjunctivitis?
The most common type of conjunctivitis is caused by a virus that results in conjunctivitis symptoms. Symptoms include red, watery eyes and a feeling of having something in your eye. Often a discharge forms a crust on your eyelashes during the night. If you have an eye infection, it can be accompanied by other illnesses like head colds or strep throat. Other causes include bacteria and chemical exposure to irritants like household chemicals or cigarette smoke. Your doctor will be able to determine what’s causing your condition after examining your eyes and taking samples from them. They might order blood tests if they suspect an immune disorder as well.
What are the common causes of conjunctivitis?
Causes of conjunctivitis include bacterial, viral and allergic reactions. Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by a strain of adenovirus called non-cytomegalovirus group B (HCoV-OC43). It may also be caused by several other strains of adenoviruses or by different types of viruses, including some that cause colds or respiratory infections. A less common cause is the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Other viruses, such as enteroviruses, parainfluenza virus and coxsackievirus can also cause conjunctivitis. Most cases are mild and clear up on their own. Antibiotics will not help if you have a viral infection; your body needs to fight it off on its own.
Treatment of conjunctivitis depends on its cause. Pink eye caused by an allergy can be treated with over-the-counter eye drops to help flush out and lubricate your eyes. Pink eye caused by a virus usually goes away on its own after a week or two. Bacterial pink eye can be treated with antibiotics in most cases.
Viral conjunctivitis symptoms
Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by adenovirus or herpes simplex viruses. The typical symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are redness, inflammation, itching and swelling of one or both eyes. Commonly there may be a yellowish discharge from your eye(s). Sometimes symptoms may be mistaken for those of bacterial conjunctivitis when they are not related to any type of infection at all. Bacterial conjunctivitis can cause a brownish discharge and sting on closing your eyes; often bacterial conjunctivitis occurs in someone who has been exposed to someone with an active cold sore. It is important to contact your doctor if you think you have any kind of eye infection as it can be serious in many cases.
How to get rid of conjunctivitis at home?
Warm compresses are helpful for relaxing and soothing red, irritated eyes. For example, a warm washcloth can be placed over your closed eyelids for a few minutes at a time. Taking hot showers or baths is also recommended for conjunctivitis relief. When you bathe, place a waterproof pad over your eyes to avoid irritating them with soap and water. In addition to watery eyes, symptoms of conjunctivitis may include itchy red lids, crustiness around your lashes, sensitivity to light and irritation from wind or smoke (all things that you should avoid). Unfortunately, in some cases conjunctivitis is caused by an infection such as pinkeye or pink eye that needs medical attention.
When to see a doctor about conjunctivitis
It’s important to see a doctor if you have symptoms that last longer than two days, or if your eye is swollen and painful. If you have a bacterial infection in your eye, it can sometimes be treated with antibiotic drops. More severe cases might require oral antibiotics or even hospitalization. Since conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, environmental irritants, or other infections such as trachoma or diphtheria, see a doctor if you’re unsure of what’s causing your symptoms. Left untreated, conjunctivitis can lead to more serious complications like permanent vision loss. An ophthalmologist is an optometrist who specializes in conditions of the eyes and vision disorders such as conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis and covid
Treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation, and often involves a topical antibiotic or antifungal medicine. If your conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection, you’ll probably be prescribed an antibiotic. If it’s caused by a fungus, you may be given a combination of steroid eye drops and an antifungal medication to treat it. In many cases, you’ll only need to use eye drops for treatment—but sometimes oral antibiotics or steroids will be required for more serious infections.
How long does conjunctivitis last
Most cases of conjunctivitis go away on their own, but you may need to visit your eye doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria usually takes one to two weeks to get better, and can be treated with antibiotics. Viral conjunctivitis typically lasts from one to three weeks. Medications like drops, ointments or medicated bandages may speed up healing and help relieve symptoms, but some instances of allergic conjunctivitis need several weeks before they’re completely gone. Fortunately, your health care provider should be able to give you some helpful tips on how to make your symptoms more bearable while your body works to fight off infection.
Conjunctivitis eye drops
To help relieve your conjunctivitis symptoms, try artificial tears or prescription eye drops that can soothe and lubricate your eyes. However, while they may temporarily ease irritation, they won’t treat any underlying conditions that might be causing your symptoms. For example, some cases of pink eye are caused by a viral infection for which there’s no treatment. If you’re unsure about what’s causing your conjunctivitis symptoms or if you have severe pain or blurry vision, see a doctor.
No. It’s a bacterial infection, so it’s not contagious (unless you share eye contact with someone who has conjunctivitis). If you’re in contact with a friend or family member who has conjunctivitis, wash your hands thoroughly, do not touch your eyes and do not share towels or bed sheets. However, any contact lens wearer is at risk of developing an infection if they don’t wear their contacts according to directions.
Conjunctivitis in babies
If your baby is younger than 1 year old, don’t use over-the-counter cold medicines to treat conjunctivitis. Also, don’t give children under 6 years of age eye drops that contain an antibiotic called neomycin. These treatments can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction that can lead to dizziness, extreme drowsiness and even unconsciousness. In some cases, it may also cause permanent damage to nerves in your baby’s eyes (neurotoxicity). Instead, talk with your child’s doctor about alternative conjunctivitis treatment for babies. This includes eye drops with dexamethasone or a saline wash.
The best conjunctivitis treatment is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Stay away from infected people if you have an infection, especially if you have pink eye. Wash your hands often with soap and water and avoid touching your eyes with your fingers. Keep hand sanitizer on hand in case you can’t wash up immediately after coming into contact with germs. If you develop symptoms of conjunctivitis, let your primary care physician know so he or she can do a proper diagnosis and treat it effectively.
Add a drop of lavender essential oil to your water at night. Add a drop of chamomile essential oil and Echinacea drops to make an even more powerful conjunctivitis treatment tea. Place 6 drops each of Echinacea and chamomile in 3 cups water and bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then allow it to steep for 10 minutes before straining. Drink 1/2 cup every 4 hours or so until symptoms subside.