Proper conjunctivitis treatment depends on the form of conjunctivitis from which you are suffering:
- Allergic — First, remove or avoid the irritant when possible. If it isn’t possible to remove or avoid the irritant, your Silverstein Eye Centers doctor may prescribe eye drops – either artificial tears or topical steroid eye drops. If these do not help, you may also be prescribed antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medications.
- Bacterial — Bacterial conjunctivitis is typically treated with antibiotics, either in the form of eye drops or ointments. Relief is usually noticeable after three to four days, however, it is important to finish the entire course of antibiotics. Failure to take the entire dose cycle increases the risks of recurrence and resistance to future antibiotic treatment. Continue your antibiotic regimen through the last dose, even if you no longer have symptoms.
- Viral — Unlike bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotics will not help a viral infection. The best treatment for viral conjunctivitis is time and to help relieve the irritation of symptoms while the virus runs its course. Viral conjunctivitis may last as long as three weeks, and treatment is aimed at managing your comfort during this period. Your doctor may suggest cool compresses and artificial tear eye drops. If there is significant inflammation, your doctor may also offer topical steroid eye drops.
- Chemical — Chemical conjunctivitis can be minor (such as irritation from swimming in chlorinated water) or serious (such as chemicals being splashed in the eyes while working or cleaning). Chemical conjunctivitis is usually treated with saline rinses and sometimes with topical steroids. Chemical conjunctivitis can be a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. If you or someone you know has suffered from a chemical splashed in the eyes, seek treatment immediately. Serious chemical eye injuries can lead to scarring, intraocular damage, blindness, and even eye loss.
PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF INFECTION
In addition to the treatment plan created by your Silverstein Eye Centers doctor, there are also several self-care steps you can take to increase your comfort and to minimize the spread of infection to others.
First, if you wear contact lenses, expect to either switch to a different type of lenses or specialized lens cleaning solutions during your treatment. You may need to temporarily stop wearing your contact lenses. Having a pair of prescription glasses to wear instead will help. However, be sure to carefully clean your glasses between wearings, for example, clean when removing them at bedtime, and don’t allow others to try on your glasses.
Hand washing is always key in preventing the spread of infection, but especially in halting the spread of conjunctivitis. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently through the course of the day. Be careful to not touch your eyes or face with your hands, and wash every time you do touch your eyes or face. Be sure that you change your towel and washcloth daily during treatment for conjunctivitis, and do not share them with others. Wash your towels and washcloths frequently. If you use makeup, discard any eye makeup, especially mascara. Unfortunately, eye makeup, mascara in particular, can be a breeding ground for conjunctivitis-causing bacteria. Whether you have conjunctivitis or not, do not share makeup with others.
If you are suffering from conjunctivitis symptoms, call 816-358-3600 to schedule an appointment with Silverstein Eye Centers. Your Silverstein Eye Centers doctor will evaluate you and your symptoms in order to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan for your needs.