Conjunctivitis, also referred to as pink eye, is one of the most common eye infections, especially in kids. This infection can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even hypersensitivity to ingredients found in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in swimming pools, or other chemicals, which come in contact with your eyes. Certain kinds of conjunctivitis might be very transmittable and easily cause a conjunctivitis outbreak in schools and in the office or home.
This infection occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. A good clue that you have the infection is if you notice eye itching, discharge, redness or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. There are three basic kinds of conjunctivitis: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of the same kind of virus that produces the recognizable red and watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of viral pink eye can last from seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it's gone, so in the meanwhile practice excellent hygiene, wipe away any discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral conjunctivitis, you will need to keep him/her at home from school for three days to a week until it clears up.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye typically from an external object touching the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of pink eye is usually treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Most often you should see the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning.
Allergic pink eye is not infectious or contagious. 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 part of a larger allergic response. The first step in alleviating pink eye that is due to allergies is to eliminate or avoid the allergen, if possible. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your optometrist might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis, steroid eye drops might be prescribed.
Even though pink eye is typically a minor eye infection, there is sometimes a chance it could deteriorate into a more threatening issue. Any time you notice symptoms of pink eye, be sure to schedule an appointment with your optometrist in order to see how to best to treat it.