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Are you getting the right treatment for Conjunctivitis (pink eye)?

When the eye becomes pink, red or inflamed, do you readily buy antibiotic eye drops or get a prescription? If so, you may be among millions of persons found to be using antibiotic eye drops wrongly. This is the outcome of a new study that suggests that most people with acute conjunctivitis, or pink eye, are not receiving the right treatment.

The study was published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

According to the study, 6 out of 10 patients with conjunctivitis receive antibiotic eye drops although these are rarely necessary to treat this common eye infection. In fact, 2 out of 10 patients receive eye drops containing antibiotics and steroids which may prolong or worsen the infection.

According to a report online, “This study opens the lid on over-prescribing of antibiotics for a common eye infection,” said lead author Nakul S. Shekhawat, M.D., M.P.H. “It shows that current treatment decisions for pink eye are not based on evidence, but are often driven more by the type of health care practitioner making the diagnosis and the patient’s socioeconomic status than by medical reasons. The potential negative consequences are difficult to justify as we move toward focusing on value in health care.”

It is well known that antibiotics only work if the infection is bacteria. Nevertheless, several doctors choose to ‘err on the side of caution’’ by prescribing antibiotics without clear signs of bacterial infection.  Can this practice been harmful? Yes. Over-prescribing antibiotics leads to treatment resistance. Moreover, all medications including antibiotics have side effects.

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What You should Know about Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis also called pink eye (or Apollo in Nigeria) is quite common. It usually involves redness of the eye, eye pain, eye discharge and sensitivity to light.

In one study of school children in a Nigerian community, conjunctivitis was found to be the most common eye problem. However it has been observed that many parents resort to self-remedies in dealing with conjunctivitis affecting their children.

What should you know about conjunctivitis? How can you prevent its spread? Consider the answers to these frequently asked questions.

What is Conjunctivitis?

This is the swelling or inflammation of the conjunctiva. The Conjunctiva   is the thin transparent layer that lines the white part of the eye and inner eyelid. When infected by viruses or bacteria, it easily becomes inflamed. Inflammation may also be due to allergies too.

How does a person get Conjunctivitis?

  • Direct contact with someone infected e.g. handshake
  • Direct spread from bacteria living in the person’s nose
  • Poorly maintained contact lenses

How Can Conjunctivitis be prevented?

  • Antibiotics may be required if there are signs of bacterial infection such as:
  • Copious thick yellowish (pus) discharge which may leave the individual with eyes ‘’glued’’ on waking up
  • Eye swelling

What are the natural ways of getting relief from Conjunctivitis at Home

There are natural ways of getting relief such as:

  • Warm or Cold compress on the eye for a few minutes at a time
  • Using clean cotton wool soaked in clean water (preferably boiled) to wipe off crusts
  • Do not rub the eyes-this will only worsen the symptoms!

How can Conjunctivitis be prevented?

The hallmark of preventing the spread is maintaining good hygiene. According to the experts, you should:

  • Wash hands regularly and properly
  • Avoid touching the eyes
  • Avoid re-using items that are used to clean the face e.g. towels and handkerchiefs
  • Change  pillowcases regularly

Typically, allergic conjunctivitis follows a seasonal pattern and require other medications other than antibiotics too.

The right treatment for conjunctivitis depends on its cause-infection, allergy, irritants or stray eyelash.

Therefore you may need the help of an eye doctor (ophthalmologists) who have the expertise to manage severe eye conditions. So don’t hesitate to seek proper evaluation and treatment.

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