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Home » What's New » Optometric Insight: Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, is a common eye illness, especially when it comes to kids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses or even allergies to pollen, chlorine in pools, and ingredients found in cosmetics, or other products that come into contact with the eyes. Many forms of conjunctivitis might be quite transmittable and easily spread at school and at the home.

Conjunctivitis ensues when the thin clear layer of tissue over the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, gets inflamed. A sign that you have conjunctivitis is if you notice itching, redness, discharge or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. There are three basic subtypes of pink eye: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of a similar virus to that which is the source of the recognizable red and watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of pink eye are likely to stick around for seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. To relieve uncomfortable symptoms, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. Viral conjunctivitis is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile remove discharge and try to avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to stay home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye often from an external object touching the eye that carries the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of infection is most commonly treated with antibiotic cream or drops. One should notice the symptoms disappearing after just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to complete the entire course of antibiotics to prevent pink eye from coming back.

Conjunctivitis 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. The first step in alleviating allergic pink eye is to eliminate or avoid the irritant, when applicable. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the infection lasts for an extended period, steroid eye drops could be used.

Conjunctivitis should always be diagnosed by a professional optometrist to determine the type and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Remember the earlier you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving the infection to others or prolonging your discomfort.