referral criteria from primary care - conjunctivitis

Last reviewed 06/2022

The majority of cases of conjunctivitis do not require investigation or referral. The following cases should be referred to an ophthalmologist:

  • neonatal conjunctivitis
  • chronic conjunctivitis
  • if the conjunctivitis does not respond to the initial treatment (if there is no improvement in 7 to 10 days) (1)
  • if there are corneal changes associated with the conjunctivitis
  • conjunctivitis with blurring of vision or pain as opposed to discomfort, and
  • sicca (i.e. dry eye syndromes)

If the conjunctivitis is a case of sexually-associated infection then it is essential to refer the patient and contacts to the genitourinary medicine department.


  1. Leibowitz HM. The Red eye. NEJM 2000; 343:345.
  2. Prescribers' Journal 2000; 40 (2): 130-137.