Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most common eye infections, especially with kids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria or allergies to ingredients in cosmetics, chlorine in pools, and pollen, or other products that touch your eyes. Many kinds of conjunctivitis may be quite transmittable and easily infect many people in close proximity such as at school and at the office.
Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, becomes inflamed. A sign that you have pink eye is if you notice redness, discharge, itching or inflamed eyelids and crusty eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. The three main types of conjunctivitis are: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.
The viral type is often a result of a similar virus to that which is the source of the familiar red, watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis will usually stick around for a week to two and then will resolve themselves on their own. You may however, be able to reduce some of the symptoms by applying soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, remove any discharge and try to avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. If your son or daughter has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at home for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye usually from an external body such as a finger, makeup or lotion. This type of conjunctivitis is most often treated with antibiotic cream or drops. You should see the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of treatment, but make sure to adhere to the complete prescription dosage to stop conjunctivitis from recurring.
Conjunctivitis due to allergies is not contagious or infectious. It usually occurs among those who already have seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just a small part of their overall allergic response. The first step in relieving conjunctivitis that is due to allergies is to remove or avoid the allergen, if applicable. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. In cases of persistent allergic infections, topical steroid eye drops could be tried.
Pink eye should always be examined by an experienced eye doctor in order to identify the cause and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever treat yourself! Don't forget the earlier you start treatment, the less chance you have of spreading conjunctivitis to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.