Pink Eye

Pink eye is generally a harmless inflammation of the eye, however it can be very irritating and it’s important to understand the condition and to know what steps to take.

Pink eye, known medically as conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the transparent layer that covers the inner eyelid and the outer part of the eyeball. This is a common condition which causes a red irritated eye with discharge. It usually passes on its own, or with medication when necessary, within a week or so. There are three main types of conjunctivitis - viral, bacterial or allergic,and depending on the type of pink eye there are good treatment methods.

Both viral conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis are very contagious in nature. It is typically spread through indirect or direct contact with a person who has pink eye which could lead to the spread of infection in one or both eyes. However, it does not cause any serious consequences to the health of the individual if it is treated and diagnosed immediately. Pink eye is extremely common in children because it can spread in class due to close contact and also children tend to be less hygienic than adults are.

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When to Seek Immediate Care

If pink eye is identified in a newborn, immediate care from an eye doctor should be given to avoid any long term damage to the baby’s vision. 

If you have pink eye along with any of the following conditions, please schedule an appointment to see your optometrist right away, as it is important to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment:

  • Pain in the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision that does not go away when carefully wiping away discharge
  • Symptoms that get worse or if bacterial pink eye doesn’t improve with antibiotics
  • Weak immune system due to various medical conditions, such as a person going through cancer treatment

Types of Pink Eye

The most common type of pink eye is viral conjunctivitis and it is also usually the most contagious. It often starts in one eye and causes tears and watery discharge. After a few days, it starts infecting the other eye as well. 

The second major type of pink eye is bacterial. Like the viral strains, this also starts in one eye and gradually shows up in the other one as well, but this strain causes the release of a lot of pus and mucus from the eye. It is important to note that there are types of bacteria which cause pink eye and yet do not lead to pus from the eyes.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and is caused by an allergic reaction so it’s essential to determine the trigger to avoid future allergic reactions.

Types of Pink Eye
Symptoms

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of pink eye experienced by patients are as follows:

  • Redness
  • Severe itchiness
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Gritty feeling
  • Excess tearing
Symptoms

Treatment

For all types of conjunctivitis it’s important to stop wearing contact lenses and makeup until the conjunctivitis goes away. If you were wearing disposable contact lenses when the infection started, it is advised to throw them away and open a new pack when it’s safe to start wearing contact lenses again. If you are using reusable lenses, please sterilize them very carefully before using again. Be careful to wash your hands and anything else that comes into contact with your eyes such as washcloths, pillow cases, and makeup brushes in order to maintain healthy eyes and prevent future irritations. Do not touch or rub the infected eye with your hands. Tissues can be used for wiping away discharge, in case the need arises. For all types of conjunctivitis, some people find over-the-counter artificial tears helpful to reduce symptoms. 

Viral conjunctivitis is not treated medicinally, but will heal on its own within a week or two. If it's a bacterial pink eye, which usually has more pus than the other types, antibacterial eye drops will be prescribed. For both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, warm compress can provide relief and help reduce inflammation. You can use a warm washcloth to gently clean away the mucus from your eye. To treat pink eye caused by allergies, use allergy medicine and you can reduce irritation by using a cool, damp washcloth. 

Prevention

Cleanliness is extremely important to keep your eyes clean and to avoid future infection. Frequent hand washing with soap and water is recommended, especially before touching your eyes. Eye makeup, lenses or eye drops should not be shared with others.

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Summary

Pink eye is an extremely common inflammation of the front layer of the eye which causes red irritated eyes. There are different causes for pink eye and identifying the cause allows for the proper treatment. Pink eye usually goes away within a few weeks. If you have pink eye and the symptoms are not improving or are getting worse after 24 hours, please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor who can properly diagnose the cause and provide the appropriate treatment.

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