Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is a common eye illness, especially with children. This infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses or irritation from chlorine in swimming pools, pollen, and ingredients found in cosmetics, or other irritants that come into contact with your eyes. Many types of pink eye are quite communicable and rapidly spread in schools and in the home or office.
Pink eye ensues when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue over the white part of the eye, gets inflamed. You can recognize pink eye if you notice eye itching, discharge, redness or swollen eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main categories: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of the same kind of viruses that are the source of the familiar watery and red eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of viral pink eye are likely to be present for a week to two and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. You may however, be able to relieve some of the symptoms by applying soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of conjunctivitis is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile wipe away eye discharge and avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at home for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye typically from something external touching the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of pink eye is most commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should see an improvement after just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to adhere to the complete antibiotic prescription to prevent pink eye from recurring.
Allergic pink eye is not transmittable. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that sets off an allergic response in their eyes. First of all, to treat allergic conjunctivitis, the irritant itself needs to be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. 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 used.
Pink eye should always be checked out by a qualified optometrist to identify the type and best course of treatment. Never self prescribe! Keep in mind the earlier you begin treatment, the less likelihood you have of spreading conjunctivitis to others or suffering unnecessarily.