Allergic Conjunctivitis

What is Allergic Conjunctivitis?

The conjunctiva (the lining of the eyeball and lids) and cornea (the window of the eye) have their own set of problems. Many are common, and need prompt attention to avoid complications and further discomfort.

Inflammation of the eye is very common. The eyes, either singly or together, become irritated or feel as if there is sand in them. They become inflamed, and sensitive to light. They may be itchy or painful, and reading or focusing on close work becomes an ordeal. The condition may range from slight to acute.

Allergic Conjunctivitis Causes

Simple infections can readily occur during the windy spring-summer months, when pollens are rampant, and dust and debris are in the atmosphere in abundant quantities. Allergies and infections can often occur together. Frequently itchy, watery, swollen eyes (linings and surrounding parts) indicate the presence of a superimposed allergy. There may be irritations of the nose, ears, throat and other parts when the allergy factor is present.

Eye infections, particularly pus-filled ones caused by bacterial infection, are very contagious. Cleanliness is essential, as other members of the household may also become infected. Germs may spread when the affected eye is touched and unwashed hands placed on doorknobs, commonly used utensils, towels etc. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching an infected eye.

When using eye medications, remember that these may also become infected. It is essential that these are obtained fresh from the pharmacist, and those coming in sterile plastic containers are best. Use strictly as directed to prevent contaminated products being used. Never share eye medication with anyone else, for this can accentuate the risk of spreading infection.

Allergic Conjunctivitis Treatment

Many simple remedies may give partial complete relief from eye inflammations.

Frequent bathing. Bathe the affected with a simple solution of weak salty water (or boracic). A pinch of salt is appropriate to an eyebath of warm water. Apply bath to margins of the eye, look upwards and blink continually while the fluid washes over the surface of the eyeball. This removes dust, debris, foreign matter, germs and eye discharge. It is usually very soothing.

Cleanliness. Cleanliness at all times is essential to check the spread of any eye infection in the home. Wash your hands roughly with soap and hot water after touching the eye, or after inserting any form of medication.

Avoid wind, dust, bright lights, close reading. This will assist in letting the body’s normal mechanisms heal the eye. Give it a short rest, and recovery will often be rapid.

If simple measures have not greatly improved the eye within 24 to 48 hours, it is prudent to visit a doctor. Added treatment prescribed could include:

Antibiotic preparations. Antibiotic eye drops and ointments (often the sulpha series, or other antibiotic preparations containing framycetin, gramicidin, polyrnixin, bacitracin, neomycin etc, with or without corticosteroid additives, such as betamethasone) may be prescribed.

There are many commercial variations (Gantrisin drops, Sofradex drops and ointment; Neosporin etc). Drops arc often used during the day, and ointments at night, for the latter tend to blur the vision. They may be applied after eye bathing.

Antihistamine drops. These are sometimes used if allergy appears to be the chief cause.

Antibiotics. In severe infections, antibiotics may be given orally to help kill germs.

Antihistamines. Antihistamine medication may also be given if allergy is the chief cause. Sometimes tests may be required if these simple measures fail.

“Hay fever” treatment. Sometimes affected eyes are part of the syndrome known as “hay fever.” Treatment will then be primarily directed to the treatment of that disorder.

Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria is usually self-limiting. Untreated it may persist for 10-14 days, but if adequately treated, this may be reduced to one to three days.