This highly contagious conjunctivitis is caused by airborne viruses spread through coughing and sneezing. And can often accompany common viral upper respiratory tract infections such as flu’s or colds. It usually produces a red eye with thick watery discharge. The infection usually starts in one eye but will quickly spread to the other eye 80% of the time. Many times the viral infection will spread from the conjunctiva to the cornea. This will cause photophobia (extra sensitivity to light) and greater discomfort. Wearing contact lenses whilst ill with the flu or a cold increases your risk of suffering from a viral eye infection.
Various common viruses called adeno-viruses usually are responsible for the infection.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses and there are currently no anti-viral eye drops available that are effective against the adeno viruses that cause viral conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis is self-limiting and will clear on its own. The associated swelling can cause significant discomfort so supportive tear lubricants and cold packs will give relief from the symptoms.
The total cycle of the viral infection can be one to three weeks, so patience is required. In some cases corneal symptoms can persist for months and prevent comfortable contact lens wear for some time. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so it is important to observe careful hygiene tips while suffering from active infection:
We have recently commenced treatment of viral conjunctivitis with the off-label use of Betadine. This technique has been taught by eye surgeons and is effective in diminishing the effects of viral infections if administered in the first few days of symptoms. It is not suitable for patients with allergies to shellfish or iodine/sulpher. Following the treatment your eye will be uncomfortable for several hours, during which you should use tear lubricant drops frequently. Follow up treatment can be performed and review after 1-2 days is recommended.