Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids), most commonly due to an allergic reaction or an infection. Symptom shows the membrane lining of the inner part of the eyelid becomes inflamed. The eyes may appear swollen and bloodshot, and are often irritated and itchy. If there is pus, eyelids often stick together after being closed for a period of time. There may not be pain, but there may be a sensation of sand in the eye.

Causes: The conjunctiva is the delicate membrane which connects the eyeball and the inner eyelid. It is usually transparent; but, when irritated or inflamed, it turns a blood-red color. There may be a discharge from the eye. The origin may be viral if the discharge is thin and watery. If it is white and stringy, the cause may be allergenic. If there is pus, it may be bacterial in origin.

Conjunctivitis is highly contagious when it is caused by a virus. The cause is generally viral or bacterial infection. But physical or chemical injury may be involved (such as injury to the eye, bacterial infection, allergens, dust, animal danders, pollen, medications, contact lens solutions, fumes, smoke, chemicals, cosmetics, tobacco smoke, air pollution, or other foreign substances in the eye). Be careful about swimming pool water. It can cause eye and ear infections. Straining one's eyes may also produce irritation or congestion of conjunctiva. It typically occurs during a case of measles.

In chronic or persistent cases, conjunctivitis may be related to a lack of vitamin A or to toxicity due to liver or kidney dysfunctions.

When cause by allergens, the infection may reoccur at a certain time each year. In young children, "viral conjunctivitis" can occur from spring till fall and clear up in the winter.

Viral conjunctivitis is often found among groups of schoolchildren. Conjunctivitis is the most common form or eye infection in Western civilization.

Infants born at a hospital, and especially those who remain there for lenghty periods after birth, may be exposed to germs in the nursery. Those born at home are less likely to contract newborn conjunctivitis.

Chlamydial conjunctivitis typically begins 5-12 days after birth. Gonorrheal conjunctivitis usually appears 2-4 days following birth. Both infections are transmitted from the mother during passage through the birth canal.

Natural remedies for conjunctivitis:

  • Take beta carotene (10,000 IU, 3 times a day for 1 week; then 25,000 IU daily). This will provide needed vitamin A.
  • Take 1 comprehensive B complex tablet daily. Also vitamin C with bioflavonoids (1,000 - 5,000 mg in divided daily doses). Zinc (25 mg daily).
  • Apply warm poultices of 3% boric acid on the closed eye. A boric acid ophthalmic ointment may be obtained without prescription from the pharmacy.
  • Apply charcoal poultices overnight. Mix enough water in to make a thick paste. And spread it over a piece of cloth larger than the inflamed area. Hold it in place with an ace bandage and leave on overnight. Use only enough pressure to hold it in place but not so tight that pressure is placed on the lid or eyeball. To avoid spreading the infection, carefully dispose of the cloth in the morning. Do not save and use it again.
  • During the day, slurry charcoal water can be applied: Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of powdered charcoal to a cup of water, boil, let cool, and strain through several layers of cloth. With a dropper, put 4-5 drops of the clear fluid in the affected eye, by pulling back the lower eyelid and applying, every 2 hours. Wash hands carefully after each treatment.
  • Do not place a patch on the eye. It can cause bacterial infection and weaken the eyelid, so it will later droop.
  • Ice-cold compresses can be laid on the eye during the acute stage. The eye should always be closed when doing this. For half an hour, apply a wrung-out washcloth to the eye; change it every 2-3 minutes; stop for 30-60 minutes; and , then, repeat for another 30 minutes.
  • Very warm and cold applications can be applied every 4 hours. But the water should never be too hot. Apply a cloth wrung out of very warm water for 2 minutes, then a cold cloth for 30 seconds. Do this for 15 minutes.
  • Saline irrigations are also good. Add 2 level teaspoons of salt to 1 quart water, to rinse discharges out of the eyes.
  • Bacteria causing this infection may be carried on towels, clothing, paper, toys, or hands. Launder bed and bathroom linens separately from those of other family members. All in the home should frequently wash hands. Keep fingers away from the face.
  • Put a chamomile tea bag in warm (not hot) water for 2-3 minutes, squeeze out the excess liquid, place it over the infected eye for 2-3 minutes. Do this 3-4 times a day.
  • Other good herbs for compresses and washes include bilberry, aloe vera juice, chickweed, eyebright, fennel, catnip red raspberry leaf, or slippery elm.
  • Gauze pads saturated with witch hazel and placed over the closed eyes for 15 minutes may help relieve irritation.
  • Children prone to conjunctivitis should be protected from chilling; because, when chilled, the person cannot resist bacteria as well.
  • If you wear contacts, put them away for the several days that these treatments continue. Disinfect or if necessary, replace contacts.
  • Stop using eye cosmetics. They occasionally introduce infection into the eyes. Wash hands before using them.
  • Do not share towels, washcloths, or cosmetics.
Allergenic Conjunctivitis
  • Take 1,000 - 3,000 mg vitamin C daily in divided doses.
  • Take quercetin (1,000 mg daily and increase to 5,000 mg daily till symptoms are gone). It is one of the bioflavonoids.
  • Cold compresses are also good for this infection when caused by an allergy. Soak a washcloth in a dish with ice cubes and water. Squeeze out excess water, fold it, and place over both eyes. Keep it there till it warms. Repeat until the itching subsides.
Gonorrheal Conjunctivitis in Newborns
  • Gonococcal germs are quite sensitive to even slight heating or chilling. Therefore, flush the eyes with a slight saline (salt) solution (heated to 108° F) for 1 full minute. Immediately afterward, apply an ice water compress, changed every 15 seconds. Continue for 5 minutes. Watch the infant for the next 5 days for signs of reoccurence. Get a culture of secretions right away if gonorrhea is suspected.