Disease at a Glance: Conjunctivitis

Also called Red Eye or Madras Eye, conjunctivitis is a common eye condition where the inner surface of the eyelid is inflammed. The most common cause of this inflammation is viral infection, but it can also be bacterial infection or an allergy. Conjunctivitis is usually a mild condition that clears up within a couple of days without any treatment but it’s contagious and can spread very rapidly from one person to another. Conjunctivitis usually develops in one eye but may spread to the other eye within 2-5 days.


Common symptoms of conjunctivitis include redness & itchiness in the eye, a gritty feeling in the eye, increased watering & tearing, swelling of the eyelid and a discharge that forms a crust on the eyelid, which prevents a person from opening his or her eye in the morning. In case of allergic conjunctivitis, there may additional symptoms like sneezing and a runny or blocked nose.


Common Symptoms

Redness & itchiness in the eye

Gritty feeling in the eye

Increased watering & tearing from the eye

Swelling of the eyelid

Discharge from the eye that forms a crust on the eyelid


Most cases of conjunctivitis are mild and the infection usually clears up within a few days. Eye-drops and artificial tears may be prescribed for symptomatic relief. Applying warm compress to the closed eye is also recommended to sooth the discomfort. More serious infections are treated with anti-viral or anti-bacterial medication; for allergic conjunctivitis, anti-histamines may also be prescribed.


Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist for more than a few days. Also seek urgent medical attention if there’s severe pain in your eye or increased sensitivity to light or disturbed vision. The best prevention for conjunctivitis is good hygiene. Wash your hands often, do not rub your eyes with dirty hands, do not share eye make-up or cosmetics, keep your contact lenses clean, never share your towels or handkerchiefs.



1) Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (
2) US National Library of Medicine (
3) NHS Choices (
4) Mayo Clinic (



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