What is conjunctivitis?
Many of us have experienced “pink eye” or, conjunctivitis. You wake up in the morning with your eyelids stuck together; your eye is pink, painful and puffy. Frankly, you look like you’ve been way too friendly with a bottle of tequila the night before.
The conjunctiva is the thin membrane that covers your eyelids and eyeballs. It’s part of your immune system, creating a physical barrier to the things that may harm your body. When this membrane becomes inflamed it’s referred to as, conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis can be allergic where the trigger is environmental (pollens, animal dander) or a reaction to beauty products. It can also be a result of a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial is more common in children while viral conjunctivitis is more common in adults and often occurs as part of a respiratory tract infection. Contact lens wearers may also be more susceptible to conjunctivitis.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
- Pink coloured eye
- Swelling around the eye
- Watering with clear or white/yellow, sticky discharge (viral and bacterial)
- Itching (allergic)
- Visual disturbance
- Feeling of grittiness in the eyes (bacterial)
- Photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light)
- Minor discomfort
It is recommended getting an accurate diagnosis before treating as there are a range of eye conditions that may fit the symptoms above especially if you’ve never had it before. This is important if the pain is severe or with newborn babies (less than 1-month-old).
The following herbal remedy is for uncomplicated viral or bacterial conjunctivitis.
Herbal eyewash for conjunctivitis
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) and chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) are two herbs that can be of benefit with uncomplicated viral/bacterial conjunctivitis. You can use either one or combine them.
Eyebright has a long history of being used for eye problems. It reduces inflammation, strengthens the conjunctiva and is antibacterial. This herb can also give relief to allergic conjunctivitis.
Chamomile is a herb that many of us will have in our homes. It is anti-inflammatory, soothing and will reduce the formation of mucus associated with bacterial conjunctivitis.
- Take four teaspoons of dried herbs and steep in 500mL of freshly boiled water for 10 minutes.
- Wait until the mixture is has cooled to tepid and strain with a fine cloth to ensure no plant particles are in the solution. This is important as you don’t want any particles ending up in your eye, making things worse. Ensuring the mixture is sufficiently cool (but not cold) is also important to prevent eye damage.
- Fill a sterile eyebath or soak an eye pad in the herbal infusion and bathe the infected eye up to 4 times per day. Throw away any used eye pads and sterilize the eyebath between applications.
- This mixture will not keep longer than 12 hours so make a new batch as required.
Other supportive measures for conjunctivitis
- Use a cold compress on the eye to reduce swelling.
- Wear sunglasses stay in a dark room; avoid bright light
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly to prevent the spread of infection
- Change pillows, towels daily and wash in hot water.
- Avoid using cosmetic or beauty products around eyes
- Use glasses rather than contacts until the infection is resolved
What to expect
It may sting a little when using the eye-wash but this should be mild and transient. Symptoms should start to improve within 24 hours and resolve within 3-4 days. If there is no improvement or a worsening of symptoms, please seek medical advice.
Need help with your health?
Norelle Hentschelis an experienced Naturopath with a clinic in Stones Corner, Brisbane who enjoys supporting her clients to reach their health goals.
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