Healthy Articles Archive

The Eyes Have It - Part Two

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.

A Focus on Conjunctivitis - Part Two
An irritating and uncomfortable condition, conjunctivitis is easily treated - but are eye drops the best option?

Bacterial conjunctivitis is an infection caused by bacteria often found in the nose and upper airways. Common types of this conjunctivitis are staphylococcal, streptococcus and haemophilus, and this causes people to suffer painful eyes that feel gritty and produce a sticky yellow discharge or mucus. You may find you wake up in the morning and your eyelids and eyelashes are crusted together by this mucus. The bacteria spread easily, so if you have it one eye but rub your other eye you could infect it. The same goes for transmitting it to other people through sharing towels or face cloths.

Treat it
Bacterial conjunctivitis will usually get better within about 10 days if you don't take any medication - depending on the bacteria that caused it. You can visit your GP who may prescribe antibiotic eye drops, one type of which you can also now buy over-the-counter (OTC). This will help to treat the problem in about three to four days. You can also use cotton wool buds soaked in cooled boiled water to remove any crusts or stickiness.
A study in 2009 by researchers from Oxford University found that OTC antibiotic eye drop use had increased by almost half since it became available from chemists in 2005. The concern is that if people use antibiotic treatments too often, some bacteria may build up resistance to it and treatments may become less effective. Clinical trials that also took place in 2005 claim that eye drops don't make that much difference in speeding up recovery time in the majority of cases. The most important thing is to get an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment. If people self-treat without knowing exactly what the cause is, then many inappropriate doses of antibiotics may be used.

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

Bilberry is a classic supplement that may help keep eyes healthy, especially ifs taken in conjunction with gingko biloba and eyebright.

Raspberry leaf can act as a natural astringent to soothe the inflamed, swollen membranes of the eye. Try making up some raspberry leaf tea, allowing it to cool and gently bathing the eyes with it.


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