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

Optometric Insight: Pink Eye

Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is a common eye infection, particularly in children. This condition can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even hypersensitivity to chlorine in pools, pollen, and ingredients found in cosmetics, or other substances, which touch your eyes. Many kinds of pink eye are highly communicable and swiftly go around at schools and in the office or home.

Pink eye develops when the thin clear layer of tissue that lines the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, gets inflamed. You'll be able to identify conjunctivitis if you notice redness, discharge, itching or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main categories: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.

The viral manifestation is often caused by a similar virus to that which is the source of the familiar red and watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of viral pink eye can stick around for one to two weeks and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to relieve some of the discomfort by applying soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime practice excellent hygiene, wipe away eye 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.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should notice the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to adhere to the complete prescription dosage to stop the infection from recurring.

Conjunctivitis that results from allergies is not infectious or contagious. It usually occurs among people who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just one aspect of a larger allergic response. First of all, to alleviate the symptoms of allergic pink eye, the irritant itself needs to be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, your optometrist may decide to prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the conjunctivitis lasts for a long time, topical steroid eye drops could be tried.

While pink eye is usually a minor condition, it can sometimes deteriorate into a more threatening condition. If you have signs of conjunctivitis, be sure to have your optometrist examine you in order to determine what the best treatment will be.