Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, is one of the most common eye diseases, especially with kids. This condition can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even irritation from ingredients found in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in pools, or other chemicals, which penetrate your eyes. Many kinds of pink eye can be fairly contagious and swiftly infect many people in close proximity such as at schools and at the office.
Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue lining the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. A sign that you have conjunctivitis is if you notice redness, discharge, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. There are three basic types of pink eye: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by the same type of viruses that are the source of the familiar red and watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral conjunctivitis can last from seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. If you feel discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. The viral form of conjunctivitis is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime remove any discharge and try to avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral pink eye should be kept home for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye typically from an external object touching the eye that carries the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of infection is most commonly treated with antibiotic cream or drops. One should notice the symptoms disappearing after three or four days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from coming back.
Allergic pink eye is not transmittable. It usually occurs in those who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The red, itchy, watery eyes may be just a small part of a larger allergic response. First of all, to alleviate the symptoms of allergic pink eye, the irritant itself needs to be removed. For mild cases, try artificial tears or compresses. When the infection is more severe, your optometrist may decide to prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the pink eye remains for an extended period, topical steroid eye drops may be used.
Even though pink eye is typically a minor condition, it can sometimes worsen into a more severe condition. Any time you have signs of pink eye, be sure to have your optometrist examine you in order to decide how to best to treat it.