Infective conjunctivitis is a very common infection of the conjunctiva (the front skin of the eye. One or both eyes become red or pink, they may be sticky or watery and may have surface irritation. Most cases clear in a few days without any treatment. Antibiotic drops or ointments may be advised if the infection is severe or does not settle.

Conjunctivitis in a newborn baby is different to the common ‘sticky eye’ of newborn babies, and needs urgent attention from a doctor.

What is conjunctivitis? 

Conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin covering (like a very thin skin) that covers the white part of the eyes and the inside of the eyelids.

Types of infective conjunctivitis 

Common infective conjunctivitis 

Infective conjunctivitis is mostly caused by common bacteria and viruses—often the same as common cold. Conjunctivitis commonly develops when you have a cold or cough. Sometimes it occurs alone. In the vast majority of cases, infective conjunctivitis is not serious and clears within a week or so without leaving any permanent damage to the eye.

More serious types of infective conjunctivitis

Rarely, infective conjunctivitis is more serious. For example:

  • Conjunctivitis in addition to keratitis (infection of the cornea).
  • Conjunctivitis caused by adenovirus
  • Chlamydia or gonorrhea found in new born babies often.

What are the symptoms of common infective conjunctivitis? 

  • One or both eyes may be infected. The whites of the eyes look inflamed, and red or pink.
  • The eyes may feel gritty and may water more than usual.
  • Some mild soreness may develop, but it is not usually very painful.
  • The eyelids may become swollen, and are often stuck together with gluey material (discharge) after a sleep.
  • Vision is not normally affected. You may get some blurring of vision due to discharge at the front of the eye or in adenoviral keratoconjuctivitis.

What is the treatment for common infective conjunctivitis?

  • Wait it out. Often it subsides within 1 -2 weeks, and often within 2-5 days.
  • An antibiotic or lubricant drop may be applicable in some cases.

Other general advice

  • Avoid contact lenses until symptoms have completely gone, and for 24 hours after the last dose of any eye drop or ointment.
  • Use cotton wool  and cool water to clean your eyes.
  • Infective conjunctivitis is contagious. So:
    • Wash your hands regularly, particularly after touching your eyes.
    • Do not share towels, pillows or utensils.

Early symptoms 

  • Affected vision and eye pain.
  • Light starts to hurt your eyes (photophobia).
  • Spots or blisters develop on the skin next to the eye.

For more information and any queries please contact your Ophthalmologist at Bahrain Specialist Hospital.

Dr. Shreyas Palav (1)Dr. Shreyas Palav
Specialist Ophthalmologist
Bahrain Specialist Hospital
Email: [email protected]