Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva)

Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva)
International Classification (ICD) H10.-



Those who suffer from conjunctivitis, their conjunctiva is either inflamed or irritated. It partially covers the eyeball and is located on the inside of the eyelid. When inflammation is present, the blood vessels fill up more, causing the affected eye to be red and swollen.

Conjunctivitis can have a variety of causes. Infections by viruses or bacteria, allergies and even chemical or mechanical irritations (e.g. draught, dust) can be triggers. The most common sufferers are children, while the treatment depends entirely on the cause.


There are different types of conjunctivitis. They are divided by doctors into two groups:

Infectious conjunctivitis (contagious).

  • Transmission can occur through eye contact with infected hands.
  • Viral infection: Many viruses can also cause conjunctivitis. These include herpes, zoster, adeno and flu viruses.
  • Bacterial infection: The most common cause in children is bacteria such as staph and strep. Newborns can also become infected with chlamydia or gonococcus (gonorrhea) during birth, but this happens very rarely.

Non-infectious conjunctivitis (not contagious)

  • Allergic reaction: pollen, dust mites and cosmetics can trigger allergies (overreaction of the immune system). They often occur in combination with hay fever.
  • Irritation: strong light (solarium, snow, welding), dust, foreign bodies, chemicals and drafts irritate the eyes.
  • Other diseases: Diseases such as psoriasis can cause conjunctivitis as an accompanying symptom.
  • Tear deficiency (conjunctivitis sicca)
  • Deformation of the eyelid or malposition of the eyelashes
  • Overexertion of the eyes, wrong strength of visual aids


The most noticeable symptom of conjunctivitis is redness of the eye. Furthermore, affected eyes often stick together overnight because secretion is secreted.

Depending on the cause, further symptoms occur:

  • Allergies: strong itching, sudden strong tearing
  • overexposure: pain, sensitivity to light, headache, increased lacrimation
  • Foreign body: irritation, tearing, foreign body sensation
  • Viral: redness (especially lower half), tearing, itching, foreign body sensation, corneal opacities
  • Bacterial: pus (yellow mucus), reddened and swollen conjunctiva, adhesions and scabs after sleeping, burning sensation


As soon as conjunctivitis is suspected, an (eye) doctor should be consulted to rule out other, more serious diseases. Before starting treatment, the doctor will try to determine the cause. This is done by an eye examination. The type of redness provides information as to whether only the conjunctiva or, for example, also the iris (iris skin) is affected.

In order to be able to distinguish whether viruses, bacteria or an allergy were the trigger, a smear is taken. In the case of bacterial conjunctivitis, the exact pathogen can be determined.

Depending on the results of the examination, a specific medication or therapy is applied.


The treatment of conjunctivitis depends entirely on the cause.

Eye drops (to replace the tear fluid) are used for external triggers such as dust, light, chemicals or insufficient tear production.

Anti-allergic eye drops are used for allergies.

Antibiotic eye drops are used for bacterial infections.

Conjunctivitis caused by cold viruses cannot and should not be treated with medication.

Herpes, varicella-zoster viruses can be fought with aciclovir, which suppresses their multiplication.

Adenoviruses are not yet specifically treatable. Only the symptoms can be alleviated over a short period of time with eye drops containing cortisone.


Uncomplicated cases due to bacteria, subside already after 2-3 days of treatment. Antibiotic eye drops should nevertheless (continue to) be applied as prescribed, otherwise the infection may recur.

Viral infections (even uncomplicated ones) usually last longer and may recur irregularly despite treatment.

When bacterial and viral infection combine, it is called a superinfection.

The inflammation can also spread to the cornea or iris and impair vision.

Contact lenses should be avoided for as long as the treatment lasts or until it is stopped by the ophthalmologist.


  • For dangerous work and activities, use protective eyewear (welding, snow, solarium).
  • Contact lenses require regular and careful cleaning.
  • Eyes also need rest. Therefore, avoid working too long on the computer or lack of sleep.
  • Do not touch your eyes with unwashed hands.
  • If you have had contact with someone suffering from conjunctivitis, wash your hands thoroughly.
  • If you suffer from allergies, try to avoid the allergens (e.g. animal hair). In case of seasonal allergies (e.g. pollen), use antihistamines (anti-allergic drugs) in time.
  • Use only mild cosmetics that have been tested for their eye compatibility.


  • Since conjunctivitis can spread to the contralateral other eye, you should not rub your eyes while the infection is present!
  • Pus and scabs are best rinsed with clear water.
  • Use handkerchiefs only once.
  • Sick people should use their own towel.
  • If the symptoms get worse (pus, sensitivity to light, pain, reduced vision) an ophthalmologist should be consulted.

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All information used for the content comes from verified sources (recognised institutions, experts, studies by renowned universities). We attach great importance to the qualification of the authors and the scientific background of the information. Thus, we ensure that our research is based on scientific findings.
Danilo Glisic

Danilo Glisic

As a biology and mathematics student, he is passionate about writing magazine articles on current medical topics. Due to his affinity for facts, figures and data, his focus is on describing relevant clinical trial results.

The content of this page is an automated and high-quality translation from DeepL. You can find the original content in German here.



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