Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is a common eye infection, particularly with kids. This condition can be caused by bacteria, a virus or allergens like pollen, ingredients found in cosmetics, and chlorine in pools, or other chemicals, which touch your eyes. Many types of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and easily infect many people in close proximity such as at schools and in the office or home.
Pink eye occurs when the thin transparent layer of tissue that protects the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, gets inflamed. You'll be able to recognize pink eye if you notice eye itching, discharge, redness or inflamed eyelids and crusty eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Pink eye infections can be divided into three basic kinds: allergic, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
The viral manifestation is often caused by the same kind of virus that makes us have those familiar red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of pink eye can stick around for seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. If you feel discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. Viral conjunctivitis is contagious until it's gone, so in the meanwhile maintain excellent hygiene, wipe away any discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral conjunctivitis will need to be kept 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 usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice the symptoms disappearing after three or four days of treatment, but always be sure to follow the complete antibiotic prescription to stop conjunctivitis from recurring.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious or infectious. It occurs more commonly among those who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just one aspect of their overall allergic reaction. First of all, to treat allergic conjunctivitis, the irritant itself needs to be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, your eye doctor might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the pink eye persists for a long time, steroid eye drops may be tried.
With any case conjunctivitis, making sure to practice good hygiene is the first rule of thumb. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and don't touch your eyes with your hands.
Conjunctivitis should always be examined by a professional eye doctor to determine the type and optimal course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Don't forget the sooner you begin treatment, the less chance you have of spreading the infection to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.