Conjunctivitis, also referred to as pink eye, is one of the most frequently encountered eye infections, particularly with kids. This infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses or even hypersensitivity to pollen, ingredients found in cosmetics, and chlorine in swimming pools, or other products that penetrate the eyes. Some kinds of conjunctivitis can be very transmittable and easily spread in schools and in the office.
This type of infection develops when the thin transparent layer of tissue over the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. You can recognize the infection if you notice eye discharge, redness, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main categories: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.
The viral type is often caused by the same type of viruses that produce the familiar watery and red eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of viral pink eye will often be present for one to two weeks and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. You may however, be able to alleviate some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of conjunctivitis is transmittable until it's gone, so in the meanwhile practice excellent hygiene, wipe away any discharge and avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home for three days to a week until it clears up.
A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Most often you should see the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but make sure to complete the entire course of antibiotics to stop pink eye from coming back.
Conjunctivitis due to allergies is not infectious or contagious. It occurs more commonly among individuals who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The red, itchy, watery eyes may be just one aspect of a larger allergic response. The first step in treating pink eye that is a result of allergies is to eliminate the irritant, if applicable. Try cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your optometrist might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of lasting allergic infections, steroid eye drops may be used.
Conjunctivitis should always be checked out by an experienced optometrist in order to determine the cause and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever treat yourself! Remember the earlier you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving the infection to loved ones or suffering unnecessarily.