Although the term ‘pink eye’ sounds very scary, this common eye problem cannot only be treated easily it can also be avoided with a few simple precautions.
Anyone can get infected with the pink eye, but school children, preschoolers, college students, daycare workers, and teachers are usually at risk due to close working conditions in the classroom.
- 1 What is Pink Eye?
- 2 Causes of Pink Eye
- 3 Pink eye symptoms
- 4 Treatment of Pink Eye
- 5 Prevention of pink eye
- 6 When to contact your doctor?
What is Pink Eye?
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, refers to the inflammation of the clear, thin covering of the eye whites as well as the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva). Although the conjunctiva itself is transparent, there are blood vessels that cover the sclera of the eye. Any substance that triggers inflammation causes the conjunctival blood vessels to dilate which results in red bloodshot eyes. There are various causes of conjunctivitis, but usually, eye doctors refer to viral conjunctivitis as pink eye. Viral conjunctivitis is a contagious infection that can be caused by some viruses.
Causes of Pink Eye
The main types of conjunctivitis, divided due to different causes are:
This kind of pink eye is highly contagious, but the good thing is that it usually clears up by itself within a couple of weeks without any medical treatment. Like the common cold, this type of conjunctivitis is caused by a virus.
The main causes of this type of conjunctivitis are eye irritants such as dust, pollen, and animal dander. Allergic conjunctivitis can flare up any time of the year (pet dander; dust) while seasonal conjunctivitis is usually seasonal (pollen).
This type of conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria and cause serious damage to the eye if not given immediate medical attention.
Pink eye symptoms
The main symptom of pink eye is that the eye appears pink. The types of symptoms that you may feel depend on the type of conjunctivitis that you have:
Common symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are Itchy, watery eyes and sensitivity to light. It is highly contagious and can spread by sneezing and coughing. It can affect one or both eyes.
Common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are burning, watery, and itchy eyes, light sensitivity, and a stuffy, runny nose. This type of conjunctivitis is not contagious, but it affects both eyes.
In this type of conjunctivitis patients experience a yellow or greenish-yellow, sticky discharge in the corner of the eye. In some cases, this discharge is so severe that it causes your eyelids to stick together when you wake up. This can affect one or both eyes. It can infect your eyes when you come in direct contact with an infected item or hands.
Treatment of Pink Eye
The treatment of pink eye primarily depends on the type of conjunctivitis that you have:
Usually no medical treatment is indicated or required as this type of conjunctivitis goes away by itself after running its course over a period of a few weeks. However, a home remedy that can help relieve the symptoms is applying a wet, cold washcloth to the infected eye several times during the day. Avoid sharing your washcloth with others because this type of conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can infect others.
Allergy medication can provide relief and help shorten bouts of allergic conjunctivitis. In some cases, allergy medication should be started before allergy flare-ups or allergy season after consulting with your doctor.
The basic treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis is antibiotic eye drops or ointments that should be used after being prescribed by a qualified eye doctor.
Sometimes it becomes difficult to diagnose the type of conjunctivitis based on symptoms alone. Medical conditions associated with conjunctivitis commonly include dry eyes, blepharitis, and other eye infections. Bacterial conjunctivitis can lead to some serious eye problems like a corneal ulcer which could cause permanent vision loss. Due to these reasons if you develop red, irritated eyes you should consult your ophthalmologist or optometrist immediately for an eye exam. Avoid wearing contact lenses when you have the pink eye until your doctor examines your eyes and gives his accent.
Wearing eyeglasses more frequently then contacts greatly decreases the risk of you becoming infected with pink eye. You can use an anti-reflecting coating and high-index lenses to make your glasses lighter, thinner and more attractive. Similarly, photochromic lenses reduce light sensitivity usually associated with pink eye and save your eyes from high-energy visible blue light and harmful UV radiation both outdoors and indoors.
You can learn more about treatments for the pink eye by reading the related medical websites online.
Prevention of pink eye
The main question is how you can protect yourself and your kids from the pink eye?
- Avoid sharing personal items like hand towels, tissues, or washcloths.
- Frequently wash your hands especially when you are spending a significant amount of time at school or in other public places.
- Do not share your special effects contacts or color contact lenses with your friends.
- During bouts of coughing or sneezing cover your nose and mouth.
- Clean surfaces such as bathroom vanities, shared phones, countertops, and faucet regularly handle with an antiseptic cleaner.
- Make it a habit of using a hand disinfectant frequently.
- If you wear contacts, carefully follow your doctor’s instructions regarding lens replacement and care. Use a good quality contact lens solution. Daily disposable contact lenses are also a safe alternative.
- If you suffer from seasonal allergies, follow your doctor’s orders to minimize the symptoms before they begin.
- Wear swimming goggles while swimming to protect your eyes from bacteria and other microorganisms present in the water that could cause conjunctivitis.
- Remove contacts before taking a hot bath or being in any water to avoid trapping the bacteria between your lenses and eyes.
Despite taking the necessary precautions, it is possible to develop pink eye. In such circumstances be sure to do your part to keep the infection from spreading by taking the necessary precautions. If your child is infected be sure to inform his teacher so that extra steps could be taken to sanitize the day care center or the classroom. It is better to keep your child away from school until the contagious stage has passed.
When to contact your doctor?
In case of a pink eye, it may not be necessary to rush to your doctor immediately as it usually clears up in a couple of weeks or ten days. However, the following home remedies can help ease the symptoms of pink eye:
- Soak a lint-free cloth in cool water and press it gently to your eyelids.
- If you find that a warm water compress better helps to ease the discomfort, then use warm water. Make sure that the temperature is not too hot as this will hurt your eyes.
- Use eye drops that are lubricating or are known as artificial tears.
- Don’t wear contacts during the infection.
- Take frequent baths and wash pillowcases and clothes often.
You can also watch these home remedies on YouTube to help you find immediate relief from pink eye.
Sometimes the pink eye is also caused by a style which can cause eyelid inflammation. If home remedies fail to provide any relief contact your doctor immediately. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience any changes in vision, pain, or fever. Contact your doctor immediately if your newborn baby’s eyes are red or produce a yellow discharge because he may be suffering from ophthalmia neonatorum which is a serious condition that requires immediate medical treatment to prevent permanent eye damage.