Conjunctivitis is the most common eye disease in the Western hemisphere. Because of its exposed position, the conjunctiva comes into contact with more micro organisms than any other membrane. Bacteria, such as pneumococcus, staphylococcus or streptococcus, cause some cases although allergies and some viruses can also cause conjunctivitis. A virus called adenovirus causes other cases. This virus can be spread in many ways including swimming pools, wet towels, etc. The infection usually starts in one eye and is spread to the other quite readily. It usually results in red, irritated eyes and disappears in three days to a week. If the symptoms linger, go to the eye doctor. The infection can enter the cornea and create little clouded areas that may affect vision.
Drugs can cause allergic conjunctivitis:
Antibiotics – when antibiotics are given for eye problems topically they may have the side effect of causing an allergic conjunctivitis (red eye). Systemic antibiotics taken orally, intramuscularly, or intravenously to help with bacterial infections may cause some visual symptoms. For example:
1. Synthetic penicillins (amoxicillin and ampicillin) – a person taking these may experience some mild redness of the eyes, itching and dry eyes. In rare cases they have been shown to cause haemorrhages of the blood vessels in the conjunctiva and in the retina
2. Tetracycline- similar to the above plus light sensitivity and blurred vision
3. Sulfonamides – many people are allergic to “sulfa drugs”. This can cause blurred vision, light sensitivity and haemorrhages in the eye.
Note Whenever taking antibiotics make sure you take probiotics such as acidophilus or bifidus and vitamin C to help ward off some of the side effects of the antibiotics.
Conventional medicine usually prescribes sulfa-based eyedrops once other potential problems have been ruled out. These usually work within three days. If not, broad-spectrum antibiotics are prescribed. In the case of a virus, not much can be done. An old time traditional treatment includes a 1% silver nitrate or 5% povidone/iodine solution – this will help eliminate the virus-infected cells by exfoliating the surface of the eye, as well as killing the virus itself.
Conjunctivitis is best treated with nutrition and natural remedies (See Action Plan).