Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is one of the most frequently encountered eye infections, particularly with children. Pink eye can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even sensitivities to pollen, ingredients found in cosmetics, and chlorine in swimming pools, or other chemicals, which touch your eyes. Many types of pink eye can be very contagious and rapidly cause a pink eye outbreak at schools and in the home.
This kind of infection ensues when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye, gets inflamed. A good clue that you have the infection is if you notice redness, itching, discharge, or swollen eyelids and crusty eyes early in the day. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. There are three basic categories of conjunctivitis: allergic, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by the same type of virus that makes us have those recognizable watery and red eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral pink eye can last from seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. You may however, be able to alleviate some of the symptoms by applying soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of pink eye is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile remove eye discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral pink eye, he or she will have to stay home from school from school for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.
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 pink eye is usually treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Most often you should notice an improvement within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to stop the infection from coming back.
Allergic pink eye is not infectious or contagious. It occurs more commonly in people who already have seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The red, itchy, watery eyes may be just one aspect of their overall allergic reaction. The first step in treating pink eye that is due to allergies is to eliminate or avoid the allergen, when possible. For mild cases, try artificial tears or compresses. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. In cases of chronic allergic conjunctivitis, steroid eye drops might be tried.
With any case pink eye, making certain to maintain sanitary habits is the best way to keep it from spreading. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to wash your hands thoroughly.
Conjunctivitis should always be diagnosed by a professional eye doctor to identify the cause and optimal course of treatment. Never self prescribe! Keep in mind the sooner you begin treatment, the less chance you have of spreading conjunctivitis to others or prolonging your discomfort.