Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, occurs when the conjunctiva of the eye becomes inflamed. The conjunctiva is the white fiber membrane that lines the eyelid and serves to provide protection and lubrication to the eye by producing mucus and tears.
Conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection usually from foreign bodies entering the eyes, environmental toxins, sleeping with makeup on, frequently rubbing your eyes, or irritation from contact lenses.
Conjunctivitis is accompanied by symptoms such as pain, ocular discharge, the presence of red eyes, and edema (swelling).1 Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis typically consists of antibiotics but what is a natural treatment for conjunctivitis?
Sea water, also known as saline, has been shown to be an effective method for treating infectious conjunctivitis. One study discovered that sea water is a natural remedy known for its antibacterial properties. It was reported that after heat sterilization it is beneficial as a homemade remedy for ocular infections.2 As stated by the American Optometric Association, flushing the eyes with saline is a standard treatment for chemical conjunctivitis.3 This will flush out excess mucus and pus surrounding the eye and acts as teardrops which are the eye’s natural way of cleansing itself. It will also help to flush out any irritants or allergens from the eye, providing relief.
To relieve discomfort associated with conjunctivitis, it is recommended to apply a warm or cold compress to the eyes. For viral conjunctivitis, a cold compress is recommended for serous discharge alongside artificial tears and antihistamines.4 Applying a cold compress can also cause vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) which reduces swelling and hyperemia which is an increased amount of blood flow to the blood vessels of an organ.5 Alternatively, using a warm compress reduces the buildup of discharge around the eyes or crusts that form on the eyelashes. It is crucial to clean the cloth before applying it on the other affected eye to reduce the spread of infection and prevent worsening symptoms.
Vitamins and Herbs
Vitamins and minerals are essential to our health as they promote healthy immune function. Vitamin A, known for being rich in retinoids, is an important nutrient for healthy eyes and warding off infection.6 Bioflavonoids are the active ingredients in many herbal remedies which include rutin, hesperidin, and catechin which support antioxidant function. 6 Vitamin C accompanied by bioflavonoids supports immune function and may help to alleviate inflammation, reducing the need for antihistamine use.6 Zinc is an important component for the absorption of vitamin A, which is also beneficial during an infection.6 The herb chamomile contains anti-inflammatory and phlegm-reducing properties and speeds up the healing process when diagnosed with conjunctivitis. 6
Conjunctivitis is an uncomfortable but treatable condition. It is commonly treated with antibiotics, however, studies have shown that natural remedies may be helpful. In addition to the discussed approaches for conjunctivitis, you may also wash your bed sheets to make sure they are free from bacteria and debris. Ensuring proper hygiene practices and avoiding the spread of infection will also prevent further contamination.
Always consult your healthcare provider for any infection and before using any natural treatment or supplements.
- Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis: A Systematic Review of Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association. 2013;310:1721-1729.
- Boadi-Kusi SB, Kyei S, Duodu E. The use of sea water as a homemade remedy for infectious conjunctivitis-any cause for alarm? Scientific African. 2019;4:e00108.
- American Optometric Association. Conjunctivitis (pink eye). https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/conjunctivitis?sso=y
- Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association. 2013;310:1721.
- Dupuis P, Prokopich CL, Hynes A, Kim H. A contemporary look at allergic conjunctivitis. Allergy. 2020;16:5-5.
- Sharma M, Nagori K, Soni S, Verma VS, Singh A. Herbal Significance and Home Remedies to Treat Conjunctivitis: An Overview. Research Journal of Tropical and Cosmetic Sciences. 2014;5:30-35.
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