Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
Not only allergy….
Red eyes, watery eyes, light intolerance are all symptoms of conjunctivitis. With the arrival of spring, the most frequent cause is allergy to pollen but this ailment can have many other causes. Let’s see which ones.
Conjunctivitis is the most common form of inflammation of the eye. To be precise, the inflammation concerns the conjunctiva, that is, the transparent membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and the visible part of the eye with the exception of the cornea, which is the area that covers the colored part of the eye (iris). The most visible manifestation is the redness of the white part of the eye (sclera), which intensifies in the inner part of the eyelids (conjunctiva sac). Other frequent symptoms besides those mentioned are itching, a feeling of sand in the eye and swelling of the eyelids. These symptoms are common to all types of conjunctivitis and it can therefore be difficult to distinguish one from the other. However, some characteristics are peculiar and can help you find your way.
Allergic conjunctivitis is characterized by the lack of purulent secretion and the intensity of itching. The symptoms, which affect both eyes, arise suddenly due to exposure to irritants, called “allergens”, in the most frequent case pollen, as happens in seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. This form of conjunctivitis appears mostly in the spring and occurs more frequently in young people with an allergic predisposition or with a general allergy picture already ascertained by the dermatologist or allergist. Since it is impossible to avoid contact with the allergen, all you can do is relieve the symptoms. In the milder cases, it is possible to resort for several days to the numerous free sale products that combine antihistamines and vasoconstrictors. If you do not notice any improvement or in the most serious forms of allergic conjunctivitis it is advisable to seek medical attention. When eye symptoms are accompanied by rhinitis (rhinoconjunctivitis), an oral antihistamine can be associated with eye drops for a few days. In women, the cause is often to be found in an intolerance towards both the cosmetics used to put make-up and make-up on the eyes and beauty products in general, including those defined as hypoallergenic. In this case the simple suspension of the application of the irritating cosmetic allows to obtain the improvement of the symptoms. When conjunctivitis is of infectious origin, it can be caused by bacteria or viruses.
G untivites from bacterial or viral infections are the most frequent. The most frequent sign of a bacterial infection is the presence of an abundant, dense and yellowish secretion (due to the presence of pus) that collects in the conjunctiva sacs and partially overflows with the eyelashes; it is more evident on waking up (the so-called “stuck eyelids” than the morning awakening), so much so that it is often necessary to soften the dried secretions on the eyelid edge with a cotton ball soaked in water.
More often it affects only one eye, the itching and tearing are scarce the treatment involves the use of antibiotics in eye drops or ointment. The latter has the advantage of allowing the active principle to remain in contact with the eye longer but causes a blurred vision for a few minutes; a solution could be to use the same active ingredient in eye drops during the day and in ointment before bedtime to maintain the therapeutic effect during sleep.
The treatment must always be prescribed by the doctor and must generally be continued for a week and, in any case, at least up to two days after the symptoms have disappeared. Viral conjunctivitis is manifested by less conspicuous symptoms: conjunctival secretion is poor while tearing and light intolerance prevail. The viral origin is almost certain in the presence of concomitant flu or cooling symptoms (such as sore throat and general malaise). Viral conjunctivitis is self-limiting and lasts from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on severity. The application of cold compresses and the use of decongestant eye drops can help alleviate the symptoms but you should never undertake on your own initiative a treatment with eye drops containing “cortisone” which, in case of viral infection, can cause serious damage to the eye. Infectious conjunctivitis is very contagious and is transmitted by hand-eye inoculation or through commonly used accessories.
Those affected must wash their hands after touching their eyes and must not share towels, handkerchiefs, pillows, eye drops and other possible transmission vehicles with other members of the family. The same attention must be paid to a child who goes to school or kindergarten. Finally, the appearance of conjunctivitis can be due to physical causes such as exposure to too intense light for prolonged periods (e.g. glare of the snow on a sunny day without wearing glasses, welding), wind, cold. In most cases, i! simple use of eye drops based on vasoconstrictors (free sale) solves the problem in a short time.
If conjunctivitis is due to chemical causes such as fumes, irritating vapors of toxic substances the most important and urgent intervention consists in abundant and prolonged washing with only running water and in contacting the most near First Aid.
What is that
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation affecting the conjunctiva (membrane that lines the eyelid) and the cornea (white part of the eye). It may be due to a bacterium, a virus or be due to an allergy, irritation from smoke, wind, dust or polluting agents present in the air. Conjunctivitis can accompany a simple cold, an exanthematic disease (especially measles) or irritation due to very intense exposure to natural or artificial light.
How it manifests itself
Conjunctivitis of bacterial origin generally presents with purulent secretions of yellow or greenish color, accompanied by modest swelling and redness of the eyelids. The sensation of the presence of a foreign body in the eye, accompanied by itching, may suggest an allergic conjunctivitis.
What are the risks
Conjunctivitis is extremely contagious and spreads very easily, especially by contact between members of the same family or community.
What should be done
It is good to follow scrupulously, in addition to therapy with medications prescribed by the doctor, some hygiene and behavioral rules:
- avoid touching your eyes as the infection could spread from one eye to another and, through contact with the hands, between different subjects;
- remove every secretion from the eye with great care, especially before instilling eye drops and not keeping your eyes bandaged;
- maintain good hand hygiene; always wash them with great care before touching the eyes; do not share your towel with others;
- do not touch the eye or the eyelids with the tip of the dropper of the bottle of eye drops, as it would pollute the solution that is and must remain sterile;
- eliminate eye drops after healing; if after a few weeks or months the problem recurs, it is good to use a new bottle of eye drops, certainly sterile;
- once the eye drops are applied, keep the eyes closed for a few minutes and keep the head tilted back;
- do not use cosmetic products around the eye until completely healed;
- protect the eyes from too strong light radiation, possibly with the help of sunglasses.
When to seek medical attention
It is good to consult the doctor:
- if the situation does not improve after 3 days;
- if the pain increases and the eye becomes increasingly red;
- if there is blurred vision;
- if fever appears.