What is Pink Eye?
Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye, is the inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin, clear tissue that lines the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelid. When inflamed, blood vessels become more visible causing the eye to turn a pink or reddish color and can be highly contagious. It’s most common in children but teens and adults are not exempt from the infection.
How do you get Pink Eye?
The most common causes of pink eye are bacterial infections, viral infections and allergens. Irritants can be a cause of pink eye, but like allergens, these cases are non-infectious. Because the symptoms are similar, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes each case.
Symptoms of Pink Eye
Besides the obvious pink or red colored eyes, symptoms can be consistent among different types of infection. It’s important to remember that some symptoms may vary depending on whether or not the conjunctivitis is contagious.
- Discharge, pus or mucus secreting from the eyes
- Eyelids crusting or sticking together-especially when first waking up
- Watery, itchy or burning eyes
- Feeling like something is in your eyes
- Red or pink colored eye
- Increase in tear production
- Sensitivity to light
- Contacts might become uncomfortable
- Urge to rub eyes
10) Swelling of the eyelids
Don’t assume that all red, irritated, or swollen eyes are pinkeye (viral conjunctivitis). Your symptoms could also be caused by seasonal allergies, a sty, iritis, chalazion (an inflammation of the gland along the eyelid), or blepharitis (an inflammation or infection of the skin along the eyelid). These conditions aren’t contagious.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, give you an eye exam, and may use a cotton swab to take some fluid from your eyelid to test in a lab. That will help find bacteria or viruses that may have caused conjunctivitis, including those that can cause a sexually transmitted disease, or STD. Then your doctor can prescribe the right treatment.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can be caused by the same bacteria responsible for sinus infections, ear infections, colds and sore throats. Sometimes it can be caused by the same type of bacteria that causes chlamydia and gonorrhea (STD’s). As soon as a patient shows symptoms, they are immediately contagious to the people around them. This form is the most common among children and may accompany a fever.
Viral Conjunctivitis is extremely contagious and is caused by viruses such as the common cold. In some cases, it can cause a large outbreak in one eye and spread to the other healthy eye.
Allergic Conjunctivitis is NOT contagious. This type of pink eye is caused by the body’s reaction to allergens such as animal dander, mold, pollen, trees, plants or medications. It usually present in both eyes, recurrent in nature and associated swelling in eyelids and itching. People who tend to have allergic conditions, such as asthma, are more prone to this type of conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis by irritants is usually caused by foreign objects in the eye such as chemicals, dust, smoke, etc. If contact lenses aren’t properly cleaned or are worn longer than recommended, it’s possible to cause Conjunctivitis.
How to Treat Pink Eye
Treatment depends on what form of Conjunctivitis you have. In many cases, pink eye will clear up on its own within 1-2 weeks. If that’s not the case, medical attention might be necessary. It’s crucial to contact your doctor if you have any eye issues or irritations that are out of the ordinary to avoid permanent eye damage.
- Treatment for Viral Conjunctivitis – In most cases, Viral Conjunctivitis will clear up on its own in 1-2 weeks and won’t require any treatment. This is usually the mildest form. Applying a wet washcloth several times a day can help relieve symptoms. If symptoms don’t clear up in 7-14 days, please consult with your doctor.
- Treatment for Bacterial Conjunctivitis – Most cases require a doctor to prescribe antibiotics in the form of eye drops or ointment.
- Treatment for Allergic Conjunctivitis – Allergy eye drops or allergy medication are great ways to not only remedy your symptoms, but prevent them as well.
Please contact your doctor if you experience a worsening of symptoms.