Conjunctivitis, informally called pink eye, is a common eye illness, especially in children. It can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even irritation from chlorine in swimming pools, pollen, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other products, which touch your eyes. Certain kinds of pink eye might be quite contagious and easily cause a pink eye outbreak at school and in the home.
Pink eye occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of your eye, becomes inflamed. A good clue that you have pink eye is if you notice redness, discharge, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Pink eye infections can be divided into three basic categories: allergic, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of a similar virus to that which produces the familiar watery and red eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis will usually last from one to two weeks and then will resolve themselves on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. The viral form of conjunctivitis is transmittable until it's gone, so meanwhile, remove any discharge and avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, you will need to keep him/her at home for three days to a week until it clears up.
The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should see the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always make sure to adhere to the complete prescription dosage to prevent conjunctivitis from returning.
Allergic pink eye is not infectious or contagious. It occurs more commonly in individuals 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 their overall allergic reaction. The first step in alleviating pink eye that is a result of allergies is to remove the allergen, when applicable. Try cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the infection lasts for an extended period, topical steroid eye drops could be prescribed.
Pink eye should always be examined by a professional eye doctor to determine the cause and proper course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Remember the earlier you begin treatment, the less likelihood you have of spreading the infection to others or suffering unnecessarily.