Conjunctivitis or the term “pink eye” may sound scary but it is a common eye problem that can be easily treated and also avoided by following a few simple precautions.
Who can get it? Practically anyone. Yes, anyone can get pink eye, but preschoolers, schoolchildren, college students, teachers and daycare workers are particularly more at risk. This is because they work closely with others in the classroom.
Here are some essential facts about conjunctivitis that you should know:
What Is Pink Eye?
Pink eye — also called conjunctivitis — is inflammation of the thin, clear covering of the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva).
Although the conjunctiva is transparent, it contains blood vessels that overlay the sclera of the eye.
Anything that triggers inflammation will cause these conjunctival blood vessels to dilate. This is what causes red, bloodshot eyes.
Conjunctivitis can have several causes, but many eye doctors use the term "pink eye" to refer to only viral conjunctivitis, a highly contagious infection caused by a variety of viruses.
What Causes Pink Eye?
The following primary types of conjunctivitis are caused due to:
Viral conjunctivitis. Caused by a virus, like that of common cold. This type of pink eye is very contagious, but usually clears up on its own within several days without medical treatment.
Bacterial conjunctivitis. Caused by bacteria. This type of conjunctivitis can cause serious damage to the eye if left untreated.
Allergic conjunctivitis. Caused by eye irritants such as pollen, dust and animal dander among susceptible individuals. Allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal (pollen) or flare up all the year-round (such as dust; pet dander).
Pink Eye Symptoms
No surprise: the primary symptom of pink eye is an eye that has a pink appearance. Other symptoms of pink eye depend on the type of conjunctivitis you have:
Viral conjunctivitis: Watery, itchy eyes; sensitivity to light. One or both eyes can be affected. Highly contagious; can be spread by coughing and sneezing.
Bacterial conjunctivitis: A sticky, yellow or greenish-yellow eye discharge in the corner of the eye. In some cases, this discharge can be severe enough to cause the eyelids to be stuck together when you wake up. One or both eyes can be affected. Contagious (usually by direct contact with infected hands or items that have touched the eye).
Allergic conjunctivitis: Watery, burning, itchy eyes; often accompanied by stuffiness and a running nose, and light sensitivity. Both eyes are affected. Not contagious.
As you would expect, the treatment of pink eye depends on the type of conjunctivitis you have:
Viral conjunctivitis. In most cases, viral conjunctivitis will continue its course for a period of several days and no medical treatment is required or indicated. A home remedy of applying a cold, wet washcloth to the eyes several times a day can relieve you of the symptoms. (Due to the highly contagious nature of this type of pink eye, be sure not to share this washcloth with others!)
Bacterial conjunctivitis. Your eye doctor typically will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments for the treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis. Allergy medications often help to prevent or shorten bouts of allergic conjunctivitis. Sometimes these medications must be started before the allergy season or before the allergy flares-up.
Often it can be difficult to tell the type of conjunctivitis you have from the symptoms alone .Conditions associated with conjunctivitis include other eye infections, dry eyes and blepharitis. Also, bacterial conjunctivitis sometimes can lead to very serious eye problems such as a corneal ulcer, which has the potential to cause permanent vision loss.
For these reasons, anytime you develop red, irritated eyes, you should call your doctor.
If you wear contact lenses, remove your lenses and wear only your glasses until your infection comes down.
Now that you know the basics about viral pink eye and other forms of conjunctivitis, what can you do to protect yourself, your family, and your children from it. Besides, to find the right doctor, you need not visit a clinic anymore. Skip the waiting room and consult a doctor online. Your instant appointment with doctors is guaranteed.
Here are 10 simple precautions you can take to significantly reduce your risk of getting pink eye:
- 1. Never share personal items such as washcloths, hand towels or tissues.
- 2. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoid rubbing or touching your eyes.
- 3. Never (EVER) share your contact lenses with anyone.
- 4. Wash your hands frequently, especially when spending time at school or in other public places.
- 5. Keep a hand disinfectant and use it frequently.
- 6. Frequently clean surfaces such as countertops, bathroom vanities, faucet handles and shared phones with an appropriate antiseptic cleaner.
- 7. If you know you suffer from seasonal allergies, ask your doctor what can be done to minimize your symptoms before they begin.
- 8. If you wear contacts, be sure to follow your eye doctor's instructions for lens care and replacement. Use contact lens solutions properly or consider switching to daily disposable contacts.
- 9. When swimming, wear swim goggles to protect yourself from bacteria and other microorganisms in the water that can cause conjunctivitis.
- 10. Before showering, using a hot tub or being in water of any kind, remove your contact lenses to avoid trapping bacteria between your eyes and the lenses.
Despite these precautions, you or your child can still develop pink eye. If the problem is contagious please be considerate of others and do your part to keep the infection from spreading.
If your child is affected, tell his or her teacher about the infection so extra steps can be taken to sanitize the classroom or day care center. Also, keep your child home until the contagious stage has passed.
Your doctor can let you know when you or your child can again mingle with others without risk of spreading contagious pink eye — usually about three to five days after the diagnosis.
Last but not the least, do remember that as a red eye or pink eye can be a symptom of many different types of eye problems (some being quite serious), make sure you consult your doctor.