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The most common cause of eye inflammation in adults is an allergy or contagious conjunctivitis. Symptoms include redness of the conjunctiva, swelling of the eyelids, watery eyes, sticky discharge from the eyes, and a feeling of having grit in the eye.  

Self-care

An allergic eye inflammation can be alleviated with over-the-counter eye drops available at pharmacies. If you think your eye symptoms are caused by an allergy, you can use eye drops for the allergy in question, at least to begin with. Viral conditions in the upper respiratory tract (flu) may be associated with conjunctivitis. If the inflammation is mild (mainly slight redness of the eyes without sticky discharge), you can monitor the condition at home for 1 to 2 days. This type of eye inflammation does not require treatment. 

When should you seek treatment?

If the inflammation involves heavy and sticky discharge from the eye, pain or ache, or visual impairment, contact a healthcare professional. 

The following table contains general information about treating eye inflammation and infections and their symptoms.  

SymptomWhat could be the cause? What should be done?
Watery eyes, redness of the eyes and feeling of having grit in the eyes during the pollen seasonAllergic conjunctivitisTry over-the-counter eye drops for the allergy. If the symptoms persist and/or recur, contact a doctor for instructions and for prescriptions.
Redness of the eyes and distinct sticky discharge from the eyesBacterial eye infectionContact a public health nurse
or a doctor.
Redness and sticky discharge – foreign body or suspected foreign body in an eyeInflammation caused by damage to the surface of the eyeContact a public health nurse
or a doctor.
Redness accompanied by pain Possibility of a serious eye conditionContact a public health nurse
or a doctor.
A blow to the eye or an accident involving a sharp objectInternal eye damageContact a doctor.
Rash with blisters around the eye involving eye symptomsHerpes infection of the eyeContact a doctor.
Mild redness of the eyes during a fluConjunctivitis that will heal by itselfYou can wait for it to heal
for 1 to 2 days.
Clear, reddish swelling of an eyelid or edge of an eyelid Hordeolum (stye)Contact a public health nurse
or a doctor.
Bleeding under the conjunctivaUsually a harmless symptom and not associated with eye disorders or other conditionsContact a doctor or a public health nurse if you have or are suspected to have high blood pressure and/or if you’re regularly using anticoagulants (blood thinners), or if the symptom presents in connection with another condition.

Information sources:

The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Terveysportti, Lääkärin tietokanta database

FSHS General Practitioner / 02 September 2019 

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