Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a frequently encountered eye illness, especially in kids. Pink eye can be caused by bacteria, a virus or allergies to chlorine in pools, pollen, and ingredients found in cosmetics, or other substances that come in contact with the eyes. Many forms of pink eye are quite communicable and swiftly cause a pink eye outbreak in school and at the office.
Pink eye develops when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, becomes inflamed. You can recognize pink eye if you notice eye redness, itching, discharge, or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Pink eye infections can be divided into three main types: bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by the same type of viruses that produce the recognizable watery and red eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral conjunctivitis will often be present for a week to two and then will disappear on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. Viral pink eye is contagious until it's gone, so in the meanwhile remove discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at home from school for three days to a week until it clears up.
The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Usually you should notice the symptoms disappearing within three or four days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to adhere to the full antibiotic prescription to stop pink eye from recurring.
Allergic pink eye is not transmittable. 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 conjunctivitis that is a result of allergies is to eliminate 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 remains for a long time, steroid eye drops could be tried.
With any case pink eye, implementing good hygiene is the first rule of thumb. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to wash your hands well.
Conjunctivitis should always be examined by a qualified eye doctor in order to identify the type and proper course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Don't forget the earlier you begin treatment, the less chance you have of spreading the infection to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.