Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, is a frequently seen eye infection, particularly with kids. This infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses or sensitivities to ingredients in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in pools, or other chemicals, which penetrate your eyes. Many kinds of conjunctivitis might be highly contagious and swiftly cause a conjunctivitis outbreak at schools and in the home.
Pink eye occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue that lines the white part of your eye, becomes inflamed. A sign that you have pink eye is if you notice eye discharge, itching, redness or swollen eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. There are three basic kinds of pink eye: allergic, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
The viral type is usually caused by a similar virus to that which is the source of the familiar red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by the viral form of conjunctivitis will usually last from seven to fourteen days and then will disappear on their own. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by applying soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of pink eye is contagious until it's gone, so in the meanwhile remove discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at home from school for three days to a week until it clears up.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye often from a foreign carrier such as a finger, makeup or lotion. This form of infection is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should see an improvement after three or four days of treatment, but be sure to adhere to the complete antibiotic prescription to prevent pink eye from returning.
Conjunctivitis due to allergies is not contagious or infectious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that triggers an allergic response in their eyes. The first step in treating conjunctivitis that is due to allergies is to eliminate the irritant, if applicable. For mild cases, try artificial tears or compresses. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor may decide to give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the infection persists for a long time, steroid eye drops may be used.
Pink eye should always be checked out by a professional eye doctor in order to determine the cause and best course of treatment. Never self prescribe! Remember the sooner you start treatment, the less likelihood you have of spreading the infection to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.