Pink eye, formally called conjunctivitis, is one of the most common eye infections, particularly with kids. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies to pollen, ingredients in cosmetics, and chlorine in pools, or other irritants that come into contact with the eyes. Certain types of conjunctivitis are quite communicable and quickly infect many people in close proximity such as in school and at the office or home.
Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue lining the white part of your eye, gets inflamed. A sign that you have pink eye is if you notice eye itching, discharge, redness or inflamed eyelids and crusty eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. The three main categories of conjunctivitis are: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of the same type of viruses that produce the familiar red, watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral pink eye are likely to stick around for one to two weeks and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to alleviate some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral conjunctivitis is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so meanwhile, practice excellent hygiene, wipe away discharge and avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your child has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home from school for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye often from something outside entering the eye that carries the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of pink eye is most often treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Usually one should notice the symptoms disappearing within three or four days of antibiotic drops, but make sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to stop the infection from coming back.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not transmittable. It occurs more commonly in individuals who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just part of a larger allergic response. First of all, to treat allergic pink eye, the irritant itself must be removed. To ease discomfort, try artificial tears or compresses. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. In cases of lasting allergic infections, steroid eye drops could be used.
In all forms of conjunctivitis, being certain to maintain good hygiene is the surest way to prevent it from spreading. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to wash your hands well.
While pink eye is often a highly treatable eye infection, it can sometimes worsen into a more severe problem. Any time you think you have conjunctivitis, be sure to see your optometrist in order to determine what the best treatment will be.