Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is a common eye infection, particularly with kids. It can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even irritants, for example chlorine in swimming pools, ingredients in cosmetics, and pollen, or other substances that touch the eyes. Certain kinds of pink eye can be very transmittable and rapidly infect many people in close proximity such as in schools and at the office.
Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue lining the white part of your eye, becomes inflamed. A sign that you have the infection is if you notice eye discharge, redness, itching or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. The three basic types of conjunctivitis are: allergic, bacterial and viral conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by the same kind of virus that is the source of the recognizable red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are likely to stick around for seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. If you feel discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. The viral form of conjunctivitis is transmittable until it's gone, so meanwhile, practice excellent hygiene, remove any discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral conjunctivitis should stay home for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice an improvement after three or four days of antibiotic drops, but always make sure to adhere to the complete antibiotic prescription to stop conjunctivitis from returning.
Pink eye due to allergies is not infectious or contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that triggers an allergic response in their eyes. First of all, when treating allergic pink eye, the irritant itself should be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor may decide to give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis, steroid eye drops could be prescribed.
Pink eye should always be examined by a qualified optometrist to identify the cause and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Remember the sooner you begin treatment, the less chance you have of spreading conjunctivitis to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.