Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is one of the most frequently seen eye infections, particularly when it comes to kids. This infection can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even irritation from pollen, ingredients found in cosmetics, and chlorine in pools, or other substances that touch your eyes. Some kinds of pink eye may be highly contagious and rapidly spread in school and at the home or office.
Pink eye ensues when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue over the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. It's easy to identify the infection if you notice eye redness, discharge, itching or inflamed 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 sub-types: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by the same kind of virus that produces the familiar watery and red 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 one to two weeks and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. To relieve discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. Viral pink eye is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime wipe away eye discharge and try to 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 conjunctivitis 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 form of infection is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Most often you should notice an improvement after three or four days of treatment, but be sure to adhere to the complete prescription dosage to stop conjunctivitis from coming back.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious or infectious. It occurs more commonly among individuals 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 response. First of all, to alleviate the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, you have to remove the allergen. Try 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 lasting allergic infections, topical steroid eye drops might be tried.
With any case conjunctivitis, practicing sanitary habits is the first rule of thumb. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to wash your hands well.
Pink eye should always be checked out by a professional eye doctor to determine the cause and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever treat yourself! Remember the earlier you start treatment, the less likelihood you have of spreading pink eye to loved ones or suffering longer than you have to.