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The conjunctiva is the clear transparent membrane which covers the white of the eye and lines the eyelids. 

Conjunctivitis is an inflammatory condition of the conjunctiva.  The two most common causes are bacteria and viruses.

 click to enlarge images

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms are sore, gritty, red eyes and a discharge (thick and sticky if bacterial, watery or clear if viral), as well as swollen eyelids and possibly slightly blurred vision.  The eyes are sticky in the mornings and often both eyes are affected.


Swabs may need to be taken to determine the cause of the conjunctivitis. Bacterial infections usually respond well to antibiotic drops or ointment, but generally will last up to two weeks if untreated.  There is no direct treatment for viral conjunctivitis which will gradually clear up on its own but will usually last from two to three weeks whether treated or not.  However, your specialist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent a secondary bacterial infection occurring.

Conjunctivitis is highly infectious and, in some cases, is caught from contact with people who may have colds rather than conjunctivitis.  


Precautions must be taken to avoid spreading it:

  • Use separate towels and flannels

  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching eyes

  • Use tissues, should you need to wipe your eyes, and dispose of them immediately afterwards

  • Under no circumstances allow anyone else to use your eye drops or ointment and throw them away when your treatment is finished

  • Never keep used bottles

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