Conjunctivitis is irritating but rarely causes serious complications. However, it can be highly contagious and thus should be diagnosed promptly.
It's important to get treatment for the bacterial form of conjunctivitis, which can in some cases invade the cornea and damage your eyesight. You may miss a few days of school or work if you have infectious conjunctivitis.
This section includes information on:
Warm and cold compresses. Placing a warm washcloth on the eye may make an eye with bacterial conjunctivitis feel better. A cool washcloth will calm inflammation and relieve itching and redness.
Over-the-counter medicines. The eye drops known as "artificial tears" can help relieve irritation by lubricating the eye. (But if only one eye is infected; don't use the same bottle of drops in the uninfected eye.) Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, taken as pills, help with pain and swelling. For allergic conjunctivitis, you may find that decongestant eye drops such as Naphcon or Opcon improve your symptoms.
Touching the eyes. Keep your hands away from your eyes, and wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. For bacterial conjunctivitis, touching your eye could make it easier to pass the bacteria to other people, or to move them from one eye to the other. In the case of allergic conjunctivitis, rubbing the eye will nudge your cells to release more histamine, making the itching worse. Also, your hands might have allergens on them.
Eye makeup. Do not wear eye makeup if you have conjunctivitis. It could get into the eye and make things worse.
Sharing towels. Conjunctivitis can be spread by a washcloth and towels, so don't share them with other people (and do wash them frequently).
Allergens. An allergy skin test can identify substances such as animal dander and dust mites that might be causing your conjunctivitis. The following recommendations can help you avoid some common allergens:
Last reviewed on 06/23/2008
U.S. News's featured content providers were not involved in the selection of advertisers appearing on this website, and the placement of such advertisement in no way implies that these content providers endorse the products and services advertised. Disclaimer and a note about your health.