Eyes right! 5 things you may not know about conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) - for many of us, alarm bells ring the moment our eyes start to feel itchy and sticky. Although we may think we know what it is, the condition has struggled to shake off the many myths that surround it - and not all of us know how to spot it, treat it or stamp out the risk of it spreading.

A recent study, carried out by the British Journal of General Practice, found that 86.7% of nurseries excluded children with conjunctivitis and almost half (49.4%) demanded a requirement for antibiotics.

Public Health England (PHE) recommends that children with the condition should not have to be excluded from childcare, but many nurseries are refusing to take on youngsters until they have been treated.

Perhaps even more shocking is that 42.6% of the clinicians surveyed admitted they had been influenced by such childcare policies when deciding to prescribe antibiotics,

So what should YOU know about conjunctivitis (pink eye)?

NHS information says it is a common condition that causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye - the conjunctiva. It can flare up for three reasons: a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction, or the eye coming into contact with substances that can irritate the conjunctiva.

With all this in mind, here are five things you might not know about the condition - whatever you age:

1. Scrap that appointment with your GP

Treatment isn't usually needed for conjunctivitis. More often than not, the symptoms clear up within one or two weeks. There are even home remedies to help the sticky condition clear up quicker, such as removing contact lenses, gently cleaning away the discharge and regularly washing your hands. Lubricant eye drops can also be purchased over the counter.

Only if the infection is particularly serious should antibiotics be prescribed.

2. As you suspect, the condition is contagious

But there are a number of ways to stop it spreading. Sharing pillows, wash cloths, towels and make-up should all be avoided.

3. Some cases of infective conjunctivitis can be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can both cause pus to build up in the eye. And, although it is rare, gonorrhoea can cause a serious bacterial form of conjunctivitis that may lead to blindness if not treated early on.

4. There are other symptoms of conjunctivitis other than the dreaded sticky discharge in the eyes

Watery eyes, sensitivity to light, blurred vision and an itchy feeling in the eye could also mean you are suffering from the condition. Viral conjunctivitis can also spark cold-like symptoms including a fever and sore throat.

5. A baby can develop pink eye - even if the mother has no symptoms herself

A mother may carry bacteria or viruses in the birth canal and, when caused by an infection, neonatal conjunctivitis can be very serious. However, it can also be caused by irritation or a blocked tear duct, so make sure your baby is properly checked.




Julie Bissett is a freelance journalist. Follow Julie on twitter: @JulesBiscuit


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