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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What can I do about my recurring Conjunctivitis?

    3 years ago in Africa I had a severe case of conjunctivitis, and ever since , when I am tired or run-down it reoccurs.It only occurs in one eye, and is very weepy form of conjunctiviits, but quickly gives shooting pains in my face.
    At first ( in Africa) I was sure to have physically something in my eye, but the eye doctor found nothing. Then I was eventually prescribed 2 antibiotics which eventually cleared things up. It only ever occurs in one eye, and I often still have the feeling that there is something lodged in the back of my eye.
    The few doctors I have seen have not enlightened me or given me any long term solutions. Can anybody else?
    Thank you so much for your time,
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 11


    I have thirty years in private practice as an optometrist at the same location in Leichhardt and have done four postgraduate courses pertaining to Diseases ... View Profile

    Hi Elsa,
    There are four basic types of conjunctivitis: bacterial, viral, allergic and chronic/irritative.

    Bacterial infection is characterised by the presence of pus; viral tearing, burning and less redness; allergy itchiness and white, stringy discharge; chronic/irritative low-grade redness, grittiness, itchiness and burning of prolonged duration and often associated with “dry” eyes.

    Eye symptoms can be related to certain medications eg antihistamines, which may reduce tear production. Are you taking any medications? 

    Dry eyes can be associated with inflammation, hence secondary pain. Also foreign-body sensation may be experienced.

    “Referred” pain to the eyes and face could result from teeth, nose, sinus or neck problems. Therefore you could consider further dental or chiropractic assessment.

    Also a general-medical evaluation, including blood tests, may reveal a systemic problem which may require oral medication as treatment. Relevant symptoms could include back-ache, joint pain, pain on urinating, mouth ulcers, digestive problems.     

    But, as a starting point, you could try to prevent the recurrences by using daily lubricating eyedrops, preferably preservative-free. Hot or cold packs may also be helpful eg for five minutes, twice a day.

    If unsuccessful, a daily, mild, steroidal antiinflammatory eyedrop may be even more beneficial. But regular progress checks would then be required, mainly to measure the pressure inside your eyes, while using the steroid.

    Hopefully a thorough eye examination will lead to the correct diagnosis, advice and treatment.        

  • 6


    Optometrist, DirectorDry Eye Centre, Heathmont, VictoriaA Melbourne based clinic specialising in Dry Eye and Ocular Surface Disease. View Profile

    Hi Elsa

    I would take a slightly different view of this.  I mostly agree with my colleague's broad description of these different types of conjunctivitis.  However, my concern is that it always occurs in one eye only.  As students of optometry, we were always advised to be aware of the single red eye!, because it can mean many different things.

    As far as simple bacterial, or allergic conjuctivitis is concerned, it is more common for these to occur in both eyes, unless you have inadvertantly subjected the problem eye repeatedly to the same trigger.  Viral conjuctivitis is also more likely to affect both eyes.  Although there are some exceptions, such as herpetic viral infections which may arise on the corneal surface of one eye.

    Another interesting thought would be a recurring corneal erosion.  These are breaks in the surface tissue of the cornea, that lead to pain, discharge and redness in the eye.  They can resolve by themsleves, although in most cases they require treatment.  Often they arise from a single event in your life (which you may not even remember).  Ususally something scratches the corneal surface, permanently weakening the surface tissue.  At various times thereafter, eyerubbing, or dryness or other trigger can cause the tissue to tear again.

    Another likley possibility is dry eye. There is a large number of possible causes of this which I won't go into here (see my other posts).

    My advice is wait for the next occurance, then stop whatever you are doing and go straight to your optometrist.  Let them see it in action (so to speak)!.  This may be the only way to diagnose it. No point going to the optometrist after you're feeling better.

    Good Luck with it and feel free to call us if you have any questions

    Kind regards

    Dr Nicholas Young

    Optometrist / Director: Dry Eye Centre

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