Prevent conjunctivitis once and for all
“How can I prevent recurrent bouts of conjunctivitis? Already this year I have had three episodes of red, itchy, sticky eyes which have lasted 4 to 10 days.”
This is a familiar story that I hear at Clinica London from patients who have been suffering from recurrent conjunctivitis. Most commonly the conjunctivitis is related to their blepharitis and in fact what they have got is a blepharon-conjunctivitis. There is red rimming of the eyelid margins, blepharitis develops a mild secondary infection that spreads to the internal lining of the eyelid, called the tarsal conjunctiva, and on to the surface of the eye, the bulbar conjunctiva. This produces a sticky, low grade but troublesome form of conjunctivitis.
You can help yourself considerably by cleaning your eyelids regularly twice a day in order to keep your blepharitis under control. For instance, you can use a proprietary cleaning solution that is preservative free. Many people like the convenience of eyelid wipes, but you must take great care in choosing them. You need to check that they do not contain preservatives and that they are very gentle to your eyelids.
By keeping your blepharitis under control, you will be able to reduce the number of bouts of conjunctivitis that you get. You may not be able to eliminate them. They may happen only once a year or every other year, but you can certainly keep your eyes in a much healthier “zone” by maintaining simple eyelid hygiene at home.
The level one treatment for blepharitis is the triad of gentle eyelid heating, or warm compress, followed by eyelid massage and cleaning. You can do this entirely with a warm flannel. You can also use an eye mask to heat the eyelids and then clean them with a proprietary cleaning solution from a company specialising in eyelid care.
Your massage and cleaning routine will warm the eyelids so that the crusts at the lash roots will soften and are therefore more easily removed. This process will also work on the oily glands in the deeper part of the eyelid called the posterior lamella. These oily glands can often become quite stagnant, and the oil becomes thicker and more solid. By heating the oil it becomes more liquid again and begins to drain well.
Infections can accumulate within the oily glands, giving a meibomianitis, or along the lid margin, giving an infected blepharoconjunctivitis or even lead to full-scale conjunctivitis. Bacteria causes this type of conjunctivitis although it is probably not terribly infective.
The bacteria is usually a low-grade bacteria that exists on your eyelids in the normal sense of everyday life, but has grown and accumulated in a biofilm along the eyelid margin, and it has caused a reaction, resulting in red rimming and sticky red eyes. By looking after your eyelids through heating, massaging and cleaning you can often prevent the onset of conjunctivitis.
More infective bacterial and viral conjunctivitis can spread from patient to patient, particularly bacterial conjunctivitis, which is very common in children and less common in adults, who mainly get viral conjunctivitis associated with an upper respiratory tract infection.
Bacteria and viruses spread by droplets circulating and also by people having direct contact with secretions through using towels and flannels.
Therefore, by maintaining scrupulous hand washing and not sharing towels and flannels, you can prevent the spread of conjunctivitis or avoid catching it. I am sure that we all travel frequently on the underground if we are living in London and the first thing I certainly do when I get home is wash my hands before touching anything. I do not touch my mouth or my eyes because I may well have picked up bacterial viruses that could give me conjunctivitis.
Similarly, I have to be particularly careful in the workplace. At Clinica London, we have an urgent eye care clinic for walk-in patients and I have to take extra care to ensure that I don’t catch conjunctivitis from them. I have to maintain scrupulous hygiene by washing my hands and cleaning medical equipment that I have used to examine my patients’ eyes.
To prevent conjunctivitis once and for all, you have to be sure about the diagnosis.
If you think that you have conjunctivitis and would like the advice of an ophthalmic specialist we are available at Clinica London to see patients urgently. You can usually call in and see an ophthalmologist on the same day.