Allergy, Eyes, Immune | May 14, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, allergy, eyes


Conjunctivitis is inflammation, irritation or infection of the conjunctiva—the membrane that lines the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Small blood vessels in the conjunctiva dilate, making the eye appear red. This is why conjunctivitis is also referred to as redeye or pinkeye.

Different forms of conjunctivitis can depend on the pathogen i.e. bacteria or virus, or other factors such as allergies and irritants. Conjunctivitis is not usually considered a serious condition but utilising natural therapies can help to speed up healing and prevent re-occurance.

What are the symptoms?

red eye conjuctivitisThe symptoms of conjunctivitis may occur in one in both eyes and include:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • A gritty or uncomfortable feeling
  • Discharge, which can then form a crust, preventing the eye from opening
  • Watering of the eyes
  • Pain
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Visual disturbances

Types of conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis

More common in children, this type of conjunctivitis causes marked grittiness/irritation with a thicker, yellow-green discharge. This discharge can cause the lids to stick together, especially after sleeping.

conjunctivitis viralViral conjunctivitis

This form of conjunctivitis is more common in adults and is often associated with an upper respiratory tract infection, a common cold or sore throat.

Its symptoms include a watery discharge, red eye and variable itch. The infection in highly contagious and can easily spread to the other eye.

Irritant or toxic conjunctivitis

This is the only group of conjunctivitis in which severe pain and irritation may occur. Discharge and itch are usually absent, however the eye primarily shows marked redness. A chemical splash, foreign object in the eye and the use of contact lenses over an extended period of time can lead to this type of conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis

conjunctivitis allergyTypically, the eye or eyes are intensely itchy, with some eyelid swelling, redness and irritation. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic response to an allergen.

In seasonal conjunctivitis is usually occurs due to airborne allergens such as pollens. In perennial allergic conjunctivitis, it can occur all year round and is usually caused by a reaction to house dust mites.

Allergic contact conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by eye drops, cosmetics or industrial chemicals. In all forms of allergic conjunctivitis the body responds to the allergen by producing antibodies which trigger the release of inflammatory substances, including histamines.


If you have bacterial or viral conjunctivitis it is best to avoid contact with other people, including keeping children home from school. Good hygiene is extremely important and include adhering to the following:

  • Don’t touch your eyes, and if you do give them a wash
  • Wash hands frequently with warm water and soap
  • Avoid wearing contacts and eye cosmetics during infection
  • Handle and clean contact lenses properly
  • Don’t share make-up, towels, tissues or handkerchiefs
  • Change pillowcases frequently
  • Reduce the amount of time spend outdoors if you have seasonal allergies
  • Avoid smoking and passive smoking

Food as medicine

conjunctivitis garlicSimple and easy to digest foods should be eaten to support the body to fight off infection.

The diet should be high in fluids i.e. herbal teas, broths and fresh juices, and in nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Increase your intake of garlic, onions, horseradish, ginger, chili and dark berries to help the body naturally decrease inflammation and clear infection.

Limit the amount of foods that promote inflammation in the body such as red meat, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.

Boost your immune system

Zinc is integral to the functioning of the immune system and helps in healing of tissues. It can be taken as a supplement until the eye redness clears. Zinc can also be combined with vitamin C and E, as these antioxidants have been found to improve the environment of the ocular surface. 1000mg of vitamin C and 400IU per day is the daily dose that yielded these results. Vitamin A is also an important nutrient for eye health as it is required to maintain the epithelial tissue of the conjunctiva. Deficiency signs of vitamin A include sticky, swollen eyelids, symptoms synonymous with bacterial conjunctivitis.
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Herbs that support the immune system include echinacea, andrographis, olive leaf extract, propolis, calendula and eyebright can also be taken internally for their effect on increasing immune system function.
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Reducing allergies

allergiesIf allergy is suspected quercetin, perilla and albizzia can help reduce an overactive immune system.

If the conjunctivitis is related to allergic rhinitis, taking a specific probiotic containing Lactobacillus paracasei can help to reduce the frequency and severity of allergy symptoms, particularly those related to the eye.

With allergies, it’s also worth looking into whether there are allergens and/or sensitivities to certain foods. With chronic cases of conjunctivitis an elimination diet, under the guide of a naturopath, can help determine if this is the case. Common causes include dairy (cows especially), soy, wheat, salt, refined carbohydrates, gluten and colourings/preservatives/additives.
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Eye baths and drops

Eye baths are an effective way to get relief quick. Up to 12 drops of a liquid herb (chamomile, calendula, eyebright and/or raspberry leaf) can be added to a glass bowl containing a ¼ cup of boiling water. If the herbs contain alcohol, allow the hot water to evaporate the alcohol. Leave the liquid to cool and transfer to a sterile eye bath. Wash both eyes in baths up to 4 times a day, or every hour in severe infection. With each eye bath the solution should be made fresh to ensure sterility. Don’t re-use the same liquid in the other eye to avoid reinfection. Alternatively, if liquid herbs aren’t available the herbs can be purchased in loose leaf form and a strong tea that has been well strained can be used.

Eye drops containing Manuka honey can also be used to help provide relief from eye inflammation and irritation. It also possesses antimicrobial properties, meaning it can help to fight infection in the eye.
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Conjunctivitis is a common condition, especially in young children. It is highly contagious, and following simple hygiene practises can avoid its transmission to others. Natural therapies can be used to speed up the recovery, regardless of the cause and prevent re-occurrence in chronic cases.


Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Cronau H, et al. Diagnosis and management of red eye in primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Jan 15;81(2):137-44

Costa DJ, et al. Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei LP-33 in allergic rhinitis: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial (GA2LEN study). Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 May;68(5):602-7

Stoss M, et al. Prospective cohort trial of euphrasia single-dose eye drops in conjunctivitis. J Altern Complement Med. 2000 Dec;6(6):499-508

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