Healthy Articles Archive

The Eyes Have It - Part Three

Larry Benjamin is a consultant eye surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital who specialises in cataract, diabetic eye disease and microsurgical skills training. He is vice president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

An irritating and uncomfortable condition, conjunctivitis is easily treated - but are eye drops the best option?

Part Three
Allergic conjunctivitis often occurs in people who react to allergies such as pollens, causing the classic red, itchy, watery eyes associated with hay fever. Other allergens include dust mites and pet hair. Make-up can also cause allergic conjunctivitis due to your body reacting to the chemicals it contains. In severe cases, the conjunctiva swell up to look jelly-like. Excess mucus is produced and other secretions are watery. It�s common in spring and summer when pollen counts are particularly high, but can occur all year round, depending on what allergen is causing it.

Treat it
The treatment for allergic conjunctivitis depends on its severity. You can take preventative measures such as staying indoors when the pollen count is high, or wearing sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes. Alternatively, topical anti-histamine eye drops will prevent the allergic reaction occurring. Occasionally, people are prescribed corticosteroid eye drops - but this is only in serious cases, under the supervision of an ophthalmologist.

Eye problems in children
Young children are susceptible to conjunctivitis as they have weaker immune systems than adults. Small babies may suffer nasolacrimal duct obstruction, causing watery and intermittently sticky eyes. This usually resolves itself by the time the child reaches their first birthday. Another type of conjunctivitis affecting babies is ophthalmia neonatorum, which may be due to a chlamydial infection contracted from their mother's birth canal. This is a serious condition which needs urgent treatment with antibiotics, both orally and topically.

Natural helpers
Try these tips from Peter Jackson-Main, a naturopath and lecturer in Herbal Medicine and Iridology at The College of Naturopathic Medicine (

Echinacea - Conjunctivitis can mean there's been a breakdown in immunity within the body. Taking Echinacea may assist in helping the body to deal with the infection.

Eyebright is good for eye health - I recommend making up an eyewash or taking a supplement.


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