Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, is a frequently seen eye infection, particularly with children. This condition can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even sensitivities to ingredients found in cosmetics, chlorine in pools, and pollen, or other irritants, which penetrate the eyes. Some forms of pink eye can be very transmittable and quickly cause a conjunctivitis outbreak in school and in the home or office.
This kind of infection is seen when the thin clear layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, gets inflamed. A sign that you have pink eye is if you notice discharge, redness, itching or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Pink eye infections can be divided into three main types: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.
The viral manifestation is usually caused by the same viruses that make us have those recognizable red and watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis can last from a week to two and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to relieve some of the discomfort by applying soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of conjunctivitis is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so meanwhile, maintain excellent hygiene, remove any discharge and try to avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral conjunctivitis will need to stay home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye usually from an external object touching the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This type of conjunctivitis is most commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Usually one should see an improvement after three or four days of antibiotic drops, but make sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to stop pink eye from recurring.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. It occurs more commonly in people who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The red, itchy, watery eyes may be just one aspect of a larger allergic response. First of all, when treating allergic pink eye, you have to remove the irritant. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the infection remains for an extended period, steroid eye drops could be used.
With any form pink eye, making certain to maintain proper hygiene is the first rule of thumb. Wash your hands thoroughly and often and don't touch your eyes with your hands.
Pink eye should always be examined by an experienced optometrist to identify the type and optimal course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Don't forget the earlier you start treatment, the lower chance you have of giving conjunctivitis to loved ones or suffering unnecessarily.