Suite 309, 4 Columbia Court, Norwest Business Park, Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
Suite 309, 4 Columbia Court, Norwest Business Park, Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.

Conjunctivitis is a common but preventable eye condition, often called ‘red eye’ or ‘pink eye’ due to the bloodshot appearance of the white parts of the eye (the sclera) which is symptomatic of the disease.

The bloodshot appearance of the eye is caused by an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the clear outer layer of the eye). This inflammation causes the blood vessels in the conjunctiva to dilate, resulting in a pink or red appearance to whites of the eye or eyes.

Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria or by allergies. Each cause has different symptoms and treatments.

  • Viral conjunctivitis is common in children and those who are exposed regularly to the public due to its contagious nature. As well as a pink or red appearance to the eye or eyes, those with viral conjunctivitis may suffer from excess tearing, itching or light sensitivity.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by exposure of the eye to bacteria (often transferred by touching or rubbing the eye with unwashed hands) and can result in long term sight implications if not treated appropriately. Sufferers of bacterial conjunctivitis will experience eye discharge in addition to the red or pink appearance of the eye or eyes.
  • Conjunctivitis caused by allergies will be accompanied by symptoms such as burning or itching eyes, excess tears and a blocked or running nose.

Treatment of conjunctivitis will vary depending on its cause. It may be unclear to a patient which type of conjunctivitis they have (particularly if the patient suffers from other eye conditions with similar symptoms). This makes self-diagnosis risky due to the potential impacts to vision arising from some causes of conjunctivitis. Red eyes that are wrongly diagnosed and treated can cause more damage than conjunctivitis itself!

For this reason, we recommend patients that develop symptoms of conjunctivitis book an appointment with our optometrist in the Hills District for an eye exam.

Although a common condition due to its contagious nature, patients can take simple steps to reduce their risk of contracting conjunctivitis, including:

  • Avoiding rubbing or touching your eyes,
  • Frequently washing your hands after being in public places (e.g. school, work, shopping centres, public transport and medical centres),
  • Following all handling directions for contact lens wearers, including regular cleaning instructions and avoiding exposing the contact lenses to water (which can transfer bacteria to your eyes),
  • Not using contaminated or shared towels, tissues or face wipes.