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Conjunctivitis (infective)

Conjunctivitis is a condition that causes redness and inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin layer covering the white of the eye. Often the eye becomes sticky, watery or sore too.

Conjunctivitis has many different causes, including viral, allergic and bacterial, which is the one most people think of when hearing the term conjunctivitis.

Bacterial conjunctivitis, also referred to as ‘pink eye’ and viral conjunctivitis are both forms of infective conjunctivitis, though the signs and symptoms of each are quite different. Bacterial conjunctivitis will often give the classic red eye with sticky yellow, while viral conjunctivitis often produces a clear, watery discharge. Viral conjunctivitis may interfere with vision, causing blur or glare. This is due to the formation of white inflammatory reactions on the front surface of the eye. These often clear on their own accord but this can take weeks or even months following the disease.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is often self limiting and will resolve within a few weeks on it’s own accord. It is, however, an uncomfortable condition and often a short course of topical antibiotics are used to cure the infection quicker. Viral conjunctivitis won’t respond to antibiotics as it is not caused by bacteria and there is no anti-viral treatment for this infection. The disease will clear by itself as your body develops immunity to the virus, much like when you develop a cold or flu.

Infective conjunctivitis is a contagious disease and spreads extremely easily. As such, it is very important to exercise good, frequent hand hygiene and dispose of any tissues you may have used. While it is not usually necessary to stay at home if you have infective conjunctivitis, it may be sensible to not attend while you have a discharge if your work involves being in close contact with others, or share phones and computers. Often school children are requested to stay at home for the above reasons.

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Signs & Symptoms
  • red eye
  • sticky yellow discharge (bacterial)
  • stuck together eyelids
  • burning or gritty eyes
  • watery discharge (viral)
  • blurred vision
  • glare

bacterial conjunctivitis