Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, is a frequently seen eye infection, especially in kids. It can be caused by a virus, bacteria or allergies to ingredients in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in pools, or other irritants that touch your eyes. Certain forms of conjunctivitis are very transmittable and easily cause a conjunctivitis outbreak at schools and at the office.
This infection is seen when the thin clear layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. You'll be able to identify conjunctivitis if you notice eye discharge, redness, 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 types: allergic, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
The viral type is usually a result of a similar virus to that which makes us have those familiar watery and red eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral conjunctivitis will usually stick around for a week to two and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. To relieve uncomfortable symptoms, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. The viral form of conjunctivitis is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so meanwhile, practice excellent hygiene, remove discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Usually you should see the symptoms disappearing after just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always make sure to adhere to the complete prescription dosage to prevent pink eye from recurring.
Pink eye caused by allergies is not infectious or contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. The first step in relieving pink eye that is a result of allergies is to remove or avoid the irritant, if applicable. To ease discomfort, cool compresses and artificial tears may help. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the conjunctivitis lasts for an extended period, steroid eye drops could be tried.
In all cases of pink eye, implementing proper hygiene is the first rule of thumb. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to clean your hands thoroughly.
Pink eye should always be checked out by an experienced optometrist to determine the type and proper course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Keep in mind the earlier you start treatment, the lower chance you have of spreading pink eye to others or suffering longer than you have to.