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Conjunctivitis (Pink-eye)

The infection of the outermost layer of the eye is commonly called pink-eye, the condition is medically known as conjunctivitis, it is an infection of the outermost layer of the eye or the conjunctiva, hence the name conjunctivitis. As a medical condition, it is a somewhat short lived infection and is not usually considered serious; from the time of infection to recovery taking very little time and it is commonly resolved within ten days at the most. Folded as a layer over the inner and upper eyelid the conjunctiva serves a protective function, to the lids. While there is a burning and tearing sensation, including the secretion of a gluey liquid, vision is not impaired or affected in any serious way, but there can be a lot of discomfort attached to having conjunctivitis, the inflammation irritates the eyes greatly, there is redness in the white of the eyes and an uncomfortable and persistent itchiness takes over for the duration of the infection. The infection starts with a mild irritation in the eyes but rapidly becomes apparent with the production of a sticky, gluey secretion that seals the lids and makes it difficult to open the eyes in the morning, once this symptom has arrived, full fledged conjunctivitis is said to have set in, and medication is not needed to alleviate some of the symptoms. The illness is characterized by the accumulation of mucus in the corner of the eye, all through the day. Swelling and puffiness in the region of the lids is persistent and painful. The eyes seem to be affected in turn as the infection even though beginning in one eye, seems to affect the other eye as well. Professional advice should be sought once, any sign of visual impairment is seen or if there is an acute and long lasting pain, as these signs could foretell serious infection.

Certain strains of bacteria and or viruses seem to be the culprits that cause the inflation of the conjunctiva, however it can be said that some other physical irritants seem to the reason, physical things such as dust, sand, smoke, make-up or chlorine may find their way into the eyes, irritate them and create a condition whereby the infection can enter and inflame the conjunctiva. Other ways to the onset of conjunctivitis probably involve a few other physical causes also exists such as the constant irritation caused by contact lenses in many people who use them, an overexposure to sunlight and rough wind and cold drafts can also start inflammations to begin and be the reason that infections set in an unresolved condition of conjunctivitis especially occurring in the spring, may be due to other outside agencies- for like pollen allergies especially in cases where the infection cannot be resolved, the consequent itching will be quite terrible and both the eyes are deeply affected at the same time. The eyes are affected during the course of a cold, from bacteria in the nose or throat being transmitted to the conjunctiva. Physical methods of transmission of the infection are usually by actions such as rubbing the eyes which will spread the infection to other areas. The more serious conditions are often due to things such as viral infections . These conditions like herpes virus can affect the vision even if starting out from a very benign condition.

Supplements and herbs

The fat soluble vitamin such as vitamin A which is very rich in substances like the retinols is an important nutrient for healthy eyes and proper vision. Eyes become susceptible to dryness, to many types of irritants and to various infections if they are not found in proper amounts in the body. The provitamin A, also known as the beta-carotene, is an excellent medium through which ample amounts of vitamin A in a non-toxic, water-soluble form can be obtained. During all kinds of infections, vitamin C with the bioflavonoids should be used for proper immune system strength and support. These plant based bioflavonoids, especially the pycnogenol- soured from pine bark, other plants like bilberry, from easily found grape seed extract and compounds like quercetin provide a strong antioxidant base in the body. There are other bioflavonoids commonly found and in abundant quantities in all good antioxidant supplements including rutin, hesperidin and catechin. In high dosages, vitamin C together with all these bioflavonoids will greatly help in the reduction of the need for antihistamines the anti-allergy component of many eye drops used in treating eye infections. The essential mineral zinc is also helpful during an infection, and assists in the assimilation of vitamin A and other required substances.

Herbal infusions and compresses can be used to wash the eyes four to five times daily these greatly, strengthen glands and nerves, draw out toxins and kill infective pathogens. In order to avoid injuring the eyes, the infusions must be strained through a sterilized, cotton cloth or gauze that has been doubly folded.

In order to increase the amount of blood flowing toward the eyes, eyebright compresses can be utilized. This compress helps in alleviating the pain associated with the redness and helps in the reduction of the swelling that comes on during conjunctivitis. The ideal way to carry this out would be to moisten a cotton ball in a lukewarm infusion and apply this to the eye's leaving them on the inflamed eye for about five to fifteen minutes; the discharge from the eye can then be wiped away after this action is completed. Every time the compress is to be used, it should be kept in mind that it is a fresh cotton ball that is being used. The herb chamomile possesses phlegm-reducing properties besides being effective as an anti-inflammatory; it also has astringent properties and helps in the healing process. To take it in a liquid form, or as a tea dilute 5-10 drops of tincture in some water; this liquid can also be drunk by warming as a tea or can be used topically to bathe the eyes. Compresses can also be made using goldenseal root tincture as the liquid. Compresses made from marigold are both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and can be very effective. They can be prepared by diluting 5 drops of tincture in about 1/4 cup of water and this liquid mixture can then be used as the infusion. Compresses made from aloe are very soothing to the eyes. They can be used five times a day and are prepared by mixing about 1/4 tsp. of aloe in 3 cups of hot water; this infusion is used to prepare the compress. Other types of soothing and effective compresses can also be made from herbs such as the common condiment fennel, the herb nettle, the herb horsetail, from cornflower, from the Echinacea flowers, from plantain plants or melilot. A combination of the herbs goldenseal and Echinacea can be used as an oral treatment in cases where a bacterial or a viral infection has been determined; the treatment can go on for a couple of days.

Homeopathy

All the homeopathic remedies given below are to be used only at the early stages of conjunctivitis; they will help in minimizing the inflammation and ease the pain and discomfort felt. However, a medical professional must be consulted immediately if a significant improvement is not observed in the course of a week or after the treatment has been followed for a considerable length of time.

  • Apis
    Apis is to be used as a remedy when there is a puffiness in the eyes, if the eyes are pink and watery and swollen and if they responsive to cold compresses. The other sensations or physical symptoms felt may include a stinging, and burning pain , the eyelids may be hard to open and may tend to stick together. Psychologically the patient may display signs of irritability and may want to spend their time alone.
  • Argentum nit.
    Argentum nit. is to be used where the eyes are swollen and have a yellowish or pus-like discharge, the other signs may include redness in the white of the eyes; the whites and inner corners of the eyes being inflamed. The patient may find relief when cold compresses are used on the eyes, he may enjoy exposing the eyes to fresh air, and cold water, on the other hand the condition may deteriorate and the patient may feel that his or her eyes are tired and achy, and in addition the person may hate being exposed to light and a warm ambience. Food stuffs that are either very sweet or very salty seem to be preferred by such patients.
  • Hepar sulf.
    Hepar sulf. is to be used when there is a sore or bruised sensation in the eyes, in addition to the inflammation and burning pain which may be also present, moreover the patient may feel as if the eyeballs are being pulled into the back of the head, in all such cases this remedy may be prescribed and used. The eyes may become difficult to open in the morning as a yellow discharge can stick the eyelids shut. The patient may feel a great deal of relief when warm compresses and warm liquids are used or applied on the eyes. The patient may display an aversion to cold, as well as to excessive light and noise. Irritability and touchiness seem to mark out such patients.
  • Mercurius sol.
    Mercurius sol. is to be utilized as a remedy in people who are ill and tired, and who display erratic body temperatures, going from hot to cold, and who seem to be especially sensitive to changes in temperature. There is a greenish-yellow discharge from the eyes, which seem to easily irritate the lids and margins of the eyes causing great discomfort. Swelling in the glands seem to mark of such patients, additionally other signs may be the presence of an offensive breath, and an excessive or over production of saliva in the mouth.
  • Natrum mur.
    Natrum mur. is to be utilized in people who have a swelling in the eyelids, coupled with the production of tears that seem to burn, and there could also be a feeling of the eyes being bruised, all patients with such sensation need this remedy. The eyes are stuck together and it can become difficult to open them as there is a lot of mucus or pus being produced. The psychological signs such patients may display include a feeling of helplessness and showing tiredness and sadness all the time, in addition to irritability in the presence of others.
  • Pulsatilla
    Pulsatilla is to be used in patients who have discharges that are thick and yellow, and may cause an itchy sensation, this type of conjunctivitis may often come about after a bout of another disease such as the common cold or the measles, in any case if the patient has this particular symptoms, then pulsatilla must be suggested. Psychologically the patient may display an easy recourse to sensitivity and emotional outburst, the person will worsen in warm and stuffy rooms and will prefer being in the open, and will greatly enjoy cold and fresh air.
  • Sulphur
    Sulphur is to be prescribed and used in cases where the eyes have become very red and are easily irritated, additionally they may show a burning sensation, other sensations may include smarting, and sticking pains with a persistent itch. The tears will feel really hot and the whites of the eyes will be bloodshot and red. Other physical signs will include an aversion to strong light and the patient will worsen in a warm ambience. In the mornings the eyelids may look contracted, and withdrawn.

Additional things you may do

To decrease swelling place slices of raw potato on the eyelids. If the condition has been caused by overuse of contact lenses, treat the eyes with herbals and give them a rest for about a week.

Usual dosage

  • Vitamin C, with bioflavonoids, 1,000 mg 3 to 5 times a day
  • Zinc, 15 mg, with 3 mg copper, two times a day for one week
  • Beta-carotene, 25,000 IU

For kids

See age-appropriate dosages of herbal remedies

The presence of plugged tear ducts is not uncommon, in infants who are less than a week old, plugged tear. These ducts in the eyes are used to drain the tears produced when infants cry. This plugging of the ducts is usually resolved by the body by the time a baby is six months old, that is the ducts open up and become normal, however surgery is needed in some cases, and in such situations where the ducts have not opened up themselves, a doctor may recommend surgery. As infective pathogens may find this clogged space an ideal place to accumulate and multiply, it is best to open them artificially, because a plugged tear duct almost always causes a backup and accumulation of fluid in the eye. A strong reaction may also be produced in an infant's eye, by the application of silver nitrite drops.

Viruses seem to be the main culprits in the majority of cases of conjunctivitis in older children; bacterial infections may also be the causes in some cases. Physical transmission of the viral and bacterial infective particles can occur by processes such as rubbing of the eyes, infection can also be relayed from other places in the body, and the germs may travel from an infection in the nose, through a tear duct and find its way into the eye. The transmission of conjunctivitis from one child to another is also very common, as most children are very gregarious and play a lot.

Conjunctivitis should be suspected at once if there is any sign of coloration in the white of the eyes that is if they become bright pink or have a red tinge. An itching and burning sensation is usually the first complaint from children in the early stages of conjunctivitis; additionally the child may feel that there is something stuck in their eyes. The other obvious signs will be the production of a sticky and yellowish discharge in the eyes; the eyelids may also be swollen. The child will find it hard to open the eyes in the morning as they may be "glued" shut, because of the discharge drying on the lids.

Five days to a week is usually the time period that cases of simple conjunctivitis seemed to last in children. Children should be taken to a doctor only when there is no improvement in this time period, if the treatment is being carried out at home.

The herbs such as Echinacea and goldenseal are effective stimulators of the immune system in the body, therefore in combination, an Echinacea and goldenseal formula is important and can become very effective as a treatment option. Viral infections are fought off in the body by Echinacea, while the herb goldenseal while soothing the mucus membranes in the body is also bactericidal. Dosage for children of these two herbs can be about a single dose, every two hours, when treatment starts. As the condition improves this dosage may be changed to three times a day, extending to one week.

For your information: Echinacea should not be given on a daily basis for more than ten days continuously, as it loses its effectiveness over such long periods. In order to wash away the discharges from the eyes and to increase the blood flow to the eye a warm compress can be used. This compress should ideally be eyebright, which is an extremely effective herb in such cases and helps in the reduction of the redness and swelling in the eye, and in clearing away the eye infection. This eyebright compress can be prepared by simmering a teaspoon of the dried herb in a pint of water for about ten minutes over a slow flame. The tea can then be cooled to a comfortably warm temperature. This solution can then be used to moisten a thin white cotton cloth and placed over the child's eyes. The compress should be left in place for at least fifteen minutes. After which the eyelids can be wiped and the softened discharge around the eyes can be removed. One should always be careful and very cautious while using warm liquids around a child's eyes. As the skin that makes up the eyelid is thin and tender and can be easily burned. Personal hygiene should be done after helping the child one should wash one's hands before and after the treatment has been administered, and the compress should be discarded after using it or if retained it should be washed separately in detergent and hot water with some chlorine bleach added before it can be used again. Goldenseal root or a compress made from warm spring water can be substituted if eyebright is unavailable.

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