Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most common eye infections, particularly in children. It can be caused by bacteria, a virus or allergies to chlorine in swimming pools, ingredients found in cosmetics, and pollen, or other chemicals that touch your eyes. Certain types of conjunctivitis are highly transmittable and swiftly cause a pink eye outbreak in schools and at the home or office.
This kind of infection develops when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, gets inflamed. A good clue that you have the infection is if you notice redness, itching, discharge, or swollen eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main types: allergic, bacterial and viral conjunctivitis.
The viral manifestation is often a result of a similar virus to that which makes us have those familiar red and watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral pink eye will often be present for a week to two and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. You may however, be able to alleviate some of the discomfort by applying soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile remove eye discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral pink eye should stay home for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye typically from an external object entering the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This type of pink eye is most often treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Most often you should notice the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of treatment, but always be sure to complete the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from coming back.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. It occurs more commonly in individuals 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 response. First of all, to treat allergic conjunctivitis, you need to eliminate the allergen. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, your optometrist may decide to give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of lasting allergic conjunctivitis, steroid eye drops might be prescribed.
Conjunctivitis should always be examined by a professional eye doctor in order to identify the type and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Don't forget the sooner you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving the infection to others or suffering longer than you have to.