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Pink Eye: Don’t Let it Go Untreated

Conjunctivitis, also referred to as pink eye, is a frequently encountered eye illness, particularly with kids. This condition can be caused by a virus, bacteria or allergies to pollen, chlorine in pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other products that penetrate the eyes. Some types of pink eye might be highly transmittable and quickly infect many people in close proximity such as at schools and at the home or office.

Pink eye develops when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue that covers the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. A sign that you have the infection is if you notice eye discharge, itching, redness or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. The three basic subtypes of pink eye are: bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis.

The viral manifestation is usually caused by the same viruses that make us have those familiar red and watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of pink eye are likely to stick around for one to two weeks and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. To ease 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, remove eye discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. Children who have viral pink eye should stay home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to complete the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from coming back.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not transmittable. 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 alleviating allergic conjunctivitis is to remove the irritant, when possible. To ease discomfort, try artificial tears or compresses. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the conjunctivitis persists for an extended period, topical steroid eye drops may be tried.

With any form conjunctivitis, implementing sanitary habits is the surest way to keep it from spreading. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, make sure to clean your hands well.

Conjunctivitis should always be examined by an experienced optometrist in order to identify the cause and best course of treatment. Don’t ever treat yourself! Keep in mind the earlier you start treatment, the lower likelihood you have of giving conjunctivitis to others or prolonging your discomfort.