Bacterial conjunctivitis – a condition that most adults will have experienced either themselves or through their children!

The vast majority of patients presenting at our MECS appointments with bacterial conjunctivitis are children from the age of 3.

Classic presentation includes lashes that are stuck together on waking in one or both eyes, sticky mucus discharge and mild redness of the clear tissue overlying the white of the eyes (conjunctiva).

Causes of bacterial conjunctivitis can be from outside contamination, other people you come into contact with or from the environment. Some patients will suffer with bacterial conjunctivitis following a cough or cold. Another cause could be build-up of oils on the lashes which makes you more prone to infection, a condition called blepharitis which is generally more common in the elderly.

More often than not where children are concerned, parents are advised they cannot attend school or nursery as the condition is contagious. It will please parents immensely to know Public Health England DOES NOT require exclusion from education for this condition, but does advise family members to use separate towels and so forth at home. We’ll leave you to take this up with your children’s school though!

Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually a self-resolving condition that can be treated at home by bathing the eyes in boiled sterile water or saline solution, at least twice a day. Most patients will NOT require antibiotic eye drops/ ointment unless the practitioner feels that there is significant discharge on examination or the condition has not resolved 1 week from onset.

Be patient and ‘keep an eye on it’, all puns intended! If it doesn’t improve within 1 week we’ll be more than happy to see you and offer further help and advice.

Optometrists cannot write prescriptions to the same extent as a doctor unless they hold a specialist qualification. We can write a ‘Written order’ to a pharmacist for a small number of drugs for common eye conditions, such as bacterial conjunctivitis, allergic eye problems and dry eyes.

Special cases:

Babies with sticky lashes should be seen by a GP as we CANNOT prescribe antibiotics to children under 3, it may not be conjunctivitis in this case and should be seen by a doctor.

Patients who are contact lens wearers with similar symptoms should be more cautious as the bacteria causing the infection may be from a foreign source and therefore require different treatment – Please come and see us!

For further information please visit the college of optometrist website: https://www.college-optometrists.org/guidance/clinical-management-guidelines/conjunctivitis-bacterial-.html