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Over-the-Counter Treatments for Conjunctivitis


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Over-the-Counter Treatments for Conjunctivitis (pink eye)Conjunctivitis, also called “pink eye,” is inflammation of the lining that covers the inside of the eyelid and surface of the eye (conjunctiva). Symptoms include red, weepy, itchy, or painful eyes. In many cases there’s a clear or creamy discharge from the eye. The most common causes of conjunctivitis are bacteria, viruses, or an allergy to dust, mold or pollen. Antihistamines can help relieve the redness and irritation of allergic or viral conjunctivitis. Some over-the-counter antihistamine tablets include diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton®) and loratadine (Claritin®). Antihistamine tablets other than Claritin can cause drowsiness, so use caution when driving or operating machinery while taking one of these medicines. Eyedrops that contain a decongestant, such as tetrahydrozoline (Visine®), can also help to reduce redness. If you have certain medical conditions such as glaucoma, difficulty urinating, or high blood pressure, don't take products containing a decongestant unless your doctor recommends them. And don't use decongestant eyedrops for more than three days in a row without checking with your doctor first. Eyewashes can help cleanse the eye and remove irritants like pollen and mold.

Curing conjunctivitis



Over-the-counter medicines can help with symptoms of conjunctivitis, but they won't cure cases that are caused by infections. Prescription antibiotics are the only effective therapy for conjunctivitis caused by bacteria. There is no cure for viral conjunctivitis, which usually goes away on its own in about one week. If your symptoms don't respond to over-the-counter remedies, check with your doctor. You may have a bacterial infection that needs antibiotic treatment. Keep in mind that bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are very contagious. To avoid spreading the infection, wash your hands frequently and don't share towels or eye makeup.

 

Sources: The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition. Merck & Co., 1997.Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 1996.Drug Facts and Comparisons, Facts & Comparisons, 2006. Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.This answer prepared 12/13/2000.This information updated 2/7/2007.

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