Conjunctivitis

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Conjunctivitis is an eye condition caused by infection or allergies. It usually gets better in a couple of weeks without treatment.

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Conjunctivitis is also known as red or pink eye.

It usually affects both eyes and makes them:

  • bloodshot
  • burn or feel gritty
  • produce pus that sticks to lashes
  • itch
  • water
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If you're not sure it's conjunctivitis

Other conditions can cause red eyes.

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There are things you can do to help ease your symptoms.

Use clean cotton wool (1 piece for each eye). Boil water and then let it cool down before you:

  • gently rub your eyelashes to clean off crusts
  • hold a cold flannel on your eyes for a few minutes to cool them down

Do not wear contact lenses until your eyes are better.

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Do

  • wash hands regularly with warm soapy water
  • wash pillows and face cloths in hot water and detergent

Don't

  • do not share towels and pillows
  • do not rub your eyes
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Staying away from work or school

You do not need to avoid work or school unless you or your child are feeling very unwell.

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A pharmacist can help with conjunctivitis

Speak to a pharmacist about conjunctivitis. They can give you advice and suggest eyedrops or antihistamines to help with your symptoms.

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Find a pharmacy

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See a GP if:

  • your baby has red eyes – get an urgent appointment if your baby is less than 28 days old
  • you wear contact lenses and have conjunctivitis symptoms as well as spots on your eyelids – you might be allergic to the lenses
  • your symptoms have not cleared up after 2 weeks
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Get advice from 111 now if you have:

  • pain in your eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • changes in your vision, like wavy lines or flashing
  • intense redness in 1 eye or both eyes

These can be signs of a more serious eye problem.

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Get an urgent GP appointment

A GP may be able to help you.

Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.

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Treatment will depend on the cause of your conjunctivitis.

If it's a bacterial infection you might be prescribed antibiotics. But these will not work if it's caused by a virus (viral conjunctivitis) or an allergy.

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause conjunctivitis. This type takes longer to clear up.

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Page last reviewed: 09-01-2018
Next review due:09-01-2021

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Copyright(2019): Capri Healthcare Ltd.
DigiPractice Version: 1.5.2
Updated on 05 June 2019

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