I haven't had conjunctivitis since I was a kid. I've been a contact lens wearer for 14 years and haven't had a single bout since then either. I'm good with eye hygiene.
But still, this week, I have been relegated to wearing my glasses (which weren't purchased with lots of wear in mind so don't have non reflective lenses) due to contracting a bout of viral conjunctivitis.
So, what is conjunctivitis?
Basically the conjunctiva is the lining of your eyelids and your eyeball. It is a thin membrane which is normally clear. If it becomes irritated for some reason, that is conjunctivitis. Or Pink Eye as it is often called, because of the colour the eyeball. Nearly all conjunctivitis comes with some form of itching and/or a gritty feeling in the eye.
Now there are different types of conjunctivitis and not all of them are long lasting or contagious.
Allergic conjunctivitis and irritant conjunctivitis are both caused by something in the eye, in the former it is usually something like pollen and usually gets lumped in with hayfever, and in the case of the latter, it could be a bug, or a splinter, or something chemical that may have gotten into your eye. Those types are often short lived, usually as long as the irritant or allergen is present.
Please note, if you suspect you have something in your eye which you can't get out, or you've gotten chemicals into your eye, you are best seeing a medical professional for treatment.
The other types of conjunctivitis are contagious, and they are: bacterial, viral or chlamydial. Bacterical conjunctivitis is usually characterised by yellow or green discharge and not being able to open your eyes in the morning. This can be caused by all sorts of things, including catching it from someone else as it is HIGHLY contagious. I remember having it as a kid and it spreading around classrooms like wildfire because small children don't understand that they have to wash their hands after they touch their eyes when they have it. Thankfully it is easily treatable and often only needs some over the counter eye drops. If in doubt, do see a doctor.
Viral conjunctivitis is quite common, and is usually caused by sinusitis or a bad cold. This is what I've had. I came back from Amsterdam with a bit of a bunged up head and suddenly it is sinusitis and I've got pink eye. This type doesn't always come with many symptoms, just the redness and maybe a little grey or white discharge, maybe verging on snot colour. As with most viral things, there isn't really much you can do, so saline eye baths regularly are the best thing, just to keep the eye clean and free from anything yucky. I've read timescales for clearing up ranging from 2 days to 2 weeks, so I guess it depends on the severity and how long the virus wants to stick around for!! You can also bathe your eyes with tea, either black or chamomile, mixed with a little sea salt. Make sure it has cooled first and don't brew it too strong! It is very soothing and the tea helps contract the bits that let the virus into your eyes in the first place. I still have the redness, and I'm on day 5. It has almost gone but when I look in my eye I can still see a little irritation in the very corner of my eye wherer the lower lid meets my eyeball.
I have no idea about Chlamydial Conjunctivitis - the pictures on the internet looked nasty, and you definitely don't want it. Not that anyone wants chlamydia either, so try and avoid both.... Safe sex people!
The important thing with bacterial and viral conjunctivitis is that it is contagious. So that means: no sharing towels, pillows or anything else that touches your face. Wash your hands every time you touch your eyes, with no exceptions. Do not touch anything else.
If you wear contact lenses, stop wearing them, and you will need a new pair of lenses when it is safe to start wearing them again (wait 24 hours after your symptoms have gone fully).
Also, make up is not a good idea. If you applied any make up after the start of the infection (sometimes eyes just get bloodshot and it isn't anything), then sharpen pencils, clean brushes thoroughly with anti bacterial cleanser, spray your eyeshadows and any powder products with an alcohol based hygiene spray (you want one ideally that can deal with the flu). It would also be wise to spray your brushes with the spray too. Throw out your mascara (that is a pain in the backside, especially if yours is new, like mine was). If you don't do these things, you will keep reinfecting yourself.
Most importantly, if your symptoms get worse, or don't seem to be getting any better, or if you are in any doubt whatsoever, go and see your doctor, or at the very least a pharmacist.