Pink eye, also referred to as conjunctivitis, is a frequently encountered eye infection, particularly when it comes to kids. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses or even irritants like ingredients in cosmetics, chlorine in pools, and pollen, or other products, which penetrate your eyes. Certain types of conjunctivitis can be quite communicable and easily spread at school and at the office or home.
Conjunctivitis is seen when the thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, gets 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. There are three basic kinds of conjunctivitis: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of a similar virus to that which is the source of the recognizable watery and red eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of viral pink eye are likely to be present for one to two weeks and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to relieve some of the symptoms by applying soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so meanwhile, wipe away any discharge and try to avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at 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 enters the eye typically from an external body such as a finger, makeup or lotion. This type of infection is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should see an improvement within three or four days of treatment, but always be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent conjunctivitis from coming back.
Allergic pink eye is not transmittable. It occurs more commonly among those who already suffer from 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 response. First of all, when treating allergic conjunctivitis, the irritant itself must be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the conjunctivitis persists for an extended period, topical steroid eye drops could be tried.
While conjunctivitis is typically a minor condition, it can sometimes evolve into a more threatening issue. Any time you have signs of pink eye, be sure to have your eye doctor take a look so he or she can determine how to best to treat it.