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Viral keratoconjunctivitis  Photo: The UNSW Red Eye Clinic

Viral conjunctivitis and blepharitis are the most common causes of red eye, according to data from an emergency red eye clinic in Sydney.

 Staff optometrist at the University of New South Wales Red Eye Clinic, Lily Ho, said a review showed that they had been the most common causes of red eye among patients presenting to the clinic over the past few years.

While viral conjunctivitis accounted for more than half of conjunctivitis cases seen at the clinic, allergic conjunctivitis was another cause, she said.

‘There were far fewer cases of allergic conjunctivitis than viral conjunctivitis.’

Viral conjunctivitis was more often seen at the clinic from March to early May and from late August to early October, about the same time as seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.

‘Both present with itchy, watery eyes but there are follicles in viral cases and we don’t tend to see follicles in allergic cases,’ Ms Ho said. ‘Checking for pre-auricular lymphadenopathy could also be useful.

‘Given the contagious nature of viral conjunctivitis, it is important to diagnose this correctly to prevent further transmission.’

Another common cause of red eye seen at the clinic was lid-related disease, such as anterior blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction.

Clinic optometrists also often removed foreign bodies, especially on windy days.

Among the clinic’s contact lens wearers, contact lens complications were not found to be the cause of red eye in most cases at the clinic, Ms Ho said.

She said the clinic was established to provide clinical experience for therapeutics training, when the university’s optometry course extended from four to five years.

‘It is not just an acute eye-care service but provides good education for optometry students,’ she said.

The clinic takes referrals from GPs, optometrists, pharmacists, and ophthalmologists but patients may refer themselves.

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