Conjunctivitis, also referred to as pink eye, is a frequently encountered eye illness, especially with children. This condition can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even irritants, for example chlorine in swimming pools, ingredients in cosmetics, and pollen, or other products, which penetrate your eyes. Certain forms of conjunctivitis are fairly communicable and quickly cause a conjunctivitis outbreak in schools and in the home.
Conjunctivitis ensues when the thin clear layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. You'll be able to recognize conjunctivitis if you notice eye discharge, redness, itching or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. The three main types of conjunctivitis are: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of the same viruses that produce the recognizable red, watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral conjunctivitis are likely to last from a week to two and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to alleviate some of the symptoms by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it's gone, so meanwhile, wipe away eye discharge and avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. Children who have viral conjunctivitis should stay home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
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 form of infection is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Usually one should see the symptoms disappearing within three or four days of treatment, but always make sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to prevent conjunctivitis from recurring.
Allergic pink eye is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as pollen, pet dander or smoke that sets off an allergic response in their eyes. First of all, to treat allergic conjunctivitis, the irritant itself must be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your optometrist might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of chronic allergic infections, steroid eye drops might be prescribed.
With any form pink eye, implementing proper hygiene is the first rule of thumb. Clean your hands thoroughly and frequently and don't touch your eyes with your hands.
Pink eye should always be examined by a professional optometrist in order to determine the cause and best course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Don't forget the sooner you start treatment, the less chance you have of spreading the infection to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.