Conjunctivitis, informally called pink eye, is a common eye infection, especially in children. This condition can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even hypersensitivity to pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other substances, which touch your eyes. Many types of conjunctivitis might be quite transmittable and rapidly cause a pink eye outbreak at schools and at the office.
This kind of infection is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the white part of your eye, becomes inflamed. It's easy to identify conjunctivitis if you notice redness, discharge, itching or inflamed eyelids and crusty eyes in the morning. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main categories: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of a similar virus to that which produces the familiar red and watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis will often be present for seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by applying soothing drops or compresses. Viral conjunctivitis is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so meanwhile, maintain excellent hygiene, remove any discharge and avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral conjunctivitis will need to be kept home for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye usually from a foreign carrier such as a finger, makeup or lotion. This form of pink eye is usually treated with antibiotic cream or drops. You should notice the symptoms disappearing after just a few days of treatment, but make sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to prevent conjunctivitis from returning.
Pink eye due to allergies is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that triggers an allergic reaction in their eyes. The first step in alleviating allergic pink eye is to eliminate or avoid the irritant, if applicable. Try cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the conjunctivitis remains for a long time, topical steroid eye drops may be prescribed.
Conjunctivitis should always be checked out by a qualified optometrist to identify the type and proper course of treatment. Don't ever treat yourself! Remember the sooner you start treatment, the less likelihood you have of spreading the infection to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.