Pink eye, formally called conjunctivitis, is a common eye infection, particularly when it comes to kids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, a virus or sensitivities to pollen, chlorine in pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other chemicals, which come into contact with your eyes. Certain types of conjunctivitis may be very contagious and rapidly go around in school and at the home or office.
Pink eye ensues when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue that protects the white part of your eye, gets inflamed. You can identify the infection if you notice eye discharge, redness, itching or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. The three main types of pink eye are: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by a similar virus to that which produces the familiar red, watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis will usually be present for one to two weeks and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. To ease discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. The viral form of pink eye is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile wipe away any discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. If your child has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at home from school for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.
The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice an improvement after just a few days of antibiotic drops, but make sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to stop pink eye from coming back.
Pink eye due to allergies is not infectious or contagious. It usually occurs in individuals who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The red, itchy, watery eyes may be just part of their overall allergic response. First of all, to alleviate the symptoms of allergic pink eye, you must remove the allergen. Try cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your optometrist might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the infection persists for a long time, steroid eye drops might be prescribed.
Conjunctivitis should always be checked out by a qualified optometrist to identify the cause and optimal course of treatment. Never self prescribe! Keep in mind the earlier you start treatment, the less likelihood you have of giving the infection to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.