Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most frequently encountered eye diseases, particularly when it comes to kids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses or allergies to chlorine in swimming pools, pollen, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants that touch the eyes. Certain types of pink eye can be quite communicable and quickly go around at schools and in the home or office.
Conjunctivitis is seen when the thin transparent layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, gets inflamed. You can recognize conjunctivitis if you notice discharge, itching, redness or inflamed 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 main categories of pink eye: allergic, bacterial and viral conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of a similar virus to that which produces the recognizable red and watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of viral pink eye will often be present for seven to fourteen days and then will resolve themselves on their own. If you feel discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. The viral form of conjunctivitis is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime practice excellent hygiene, remove eye discharge and try to avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral pink eye will need to be kept home from school for three days to a week until it clears up.
The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should notice the symptoms disappearing after just a few days of treatment, but always be sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to prevent pink eye from recurring.
Pink eye due to allergies is not infectious or contagious. It usually occurs in people who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just a small part of a larger allergic reaction. The first step in treating pink eye that is a result of allergies is to remove or avoid the irritant, if possible. Try cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the conjunctivitis persists for an extended period, topical steroid eye drops could be prescribed.
With any form pink eye, making certain to practice good hygiene is the surest way to prevent it from getting worse. Wash your hands thoroughly and often and don't touch your eyes with your hands.
Although conjunctivitis is often a minor eye infection, it can sometimes worsen into a more threatening condition. Any time you think you have pink eye, be sure to have your eye doctor take a look so he or she can determine how to best to treat it.