Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the thin, clear covering of the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids called conjunctiva. When the blood vessels get in the conjunctiva get inflamed your eyes appear reddish or pink. It often happens when your conjunctiva is irritated by an infection or an allergy.
There are various kinds of pink eyes and some even end up being extremely contagious. These might get irritating but they rarely have any effect on your vision. But because they are contagious, early diagnosis and treatment is important to help limit its spread.
There quite a few types of conjunctivitis, these are based on the cause that you get the infection. Usual causes include
The majority of the pink eye cases occur due to a virus. But both viral and bacterial infections take place along with colds or as a symptom of a respiratory infection. If you wear contact lenses that aren’t cleaned thoroughly or are someone else’s then you can get bacterial conjunctivitis.
Major causes are
Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are contagious. They can spread via the direct or indirect contact between the liquid that drains from an infected person to you. One eye or both eyes can be affected in this situation.
Viral infections clear out on their own within a couple of days without treatment but bacterial infections require medication.
This type affects both the eyes and is a reaction to an allergy-causing substance like pollen. As a response to allergens, the body produces an antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). This antibody then triggers special cells called the mast cells located in the mucous lining of the eyes and airways. These mast cells release inflammatory substances like histamines in the bloodstream. This is when the body starts exhibiting a number of signs and symptoms of allergy, this includes pink or red eyes.
If you counteract allergic conjunctivitis, you will feel intense itching, tearing and inflammation of the eyes. Additionally, you might experience sneezing and watery nasal discharge. The good part here is that allergic conjunctivitis can usually be controlled with allergy eye drops.
If your conjunctiva is exposed to a chemical splash or foreign object, then the arising infection is also associated with conjunctivitis. At times just flushing and cleaning the eye is enough to remove the object causing irritation and redness. Other symptoms and signs like watery eyes and mucous discharge usually decimate on their own within a day or two.
If flushing does not help the symptoms or if the chemical is caustic like Iye, it is advised that you make your way to a doctor or an eye specialist as soon as possible. A chemical splash has the capability to permanently damage your eye. If the symptoms persist, it could mean that the foreign body is still present in your eye or there is a scratch on your cornea.
The most common symptom of pink eyes is that the eye has a pink or red appearance. Other symptoms largely depend on the type of conjunctivitis you contract but we have listed out some common ones
If you have a viral infection you will have watery, itchy eyes along with an increased sensitivity to light. One or both of your eyes can be infected. Viral conjunctivitis is also highly contagious and can spread by coughing or sneezing on another person.
In case of bacterial infection, there is a sticky, greenish-yellow or yellow discharge that accumulates on the corner of the eye. In severe cases, this charge can cause the eyelids to be stuck together when you wake up. Again, this can affect just one or both of your eyes. This kind of conjunctivitis is also contagious and is spread by direct contact with infected hands or things that have touched the eye.
An allergic conjunctivitis causes your eyes to water, burn, itch and all these symptoms are also often accompanied by a stuffy and runny nose along with a heightened sensitivity to light. This happens in both the eyes and is not contagious.
It is, however, not as easy as it sounds to tell the type of conjunctivitis you have just by the symptoms. At times some other eye or health condition could also be causing you to show the same symptoms as that of conjunctivitis.
Other conditions that are commonly seen with conjunctivitis include dry eyes. Also, at times bacterial conjunctivitis can lead to the development of serious eye problems potentially leading to permanent loss of vision.
This is why, the moment you develop irritated, red eyes you should give the doctor a call and schedule an eye exam.
In both adults as well as children there is a chance that the pink eye can cause inflammation in the cornea which in turn can affect the vision. That is why one needs to promptly contact a doctor for eye pain, a feeling that you have something stuck in your eye, blurred vision or heightened light sensitivity
Most of the times a doctor can easily diagnose a pink eye by having a dialogue about the symptoms you are going through and your recent health history. An office visit is hardly ever a necessity.
Under rare circumstances, your doctor may take a sample of the liquid that is coming out of your eye to perform a culture. This is required when you are showcasing severe symptoms or if the doctor feels that you have a high-risk cause, i.e. a foreign object in your eye, a sexually transmitted infection or a serious bacterial infection.
The treatment of pink eyes is usually based on symptom relief. The doctor might recommend using artificial tears, cleaning the eyelids with a wet cloth or applying warm and cold compress to the eye several times a day.
If you use contact lenses, you might be asked to stop using them until you have completed your treatment. Your doctor might even recommend you throw out your current contact lenses if they are disposable. You should take care and disinfect hard lenses overnight before you decide to use them again. Consult with your doctor and if required discard and replace your contact lens accessories like the lens case used during or before your illness.
Usually one does not require antibiotic eye drops. Since the leading cause of conjunctivitis is viral, antibiotics are pretty useless and on the contrary, you might even cause yourself more harm than good. You might reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotics in the future or cause a medical reaction. In the case of a virus, all you can do is let it run its course, which is usually two to three weeks.
Viral conjunctivitis usually starts out in one eye and then gradually spreads to the other one in a couple of days. The signs and symptoms usually clear out on their own. Antiviral medication is usually prescribed if the doctor feels that your viral conjunctivitis is caused by the herpes simplex virus.
If you have conjunctivitis due to an allergy, your doctor will prescribe you one of the eye drops available on the market. These are medications that help you control allergic reactions, like mast cell stabilizers and antihistamines. Certain drugs can also help you control inflammation like steroids, decongestants, and anti-inflammatory drops.
Certain over the counter eye drops also have antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medication which are also effective in mitigating the symptoms. Another easier way of reducing the severity of allergic conjunctivitis is by simply avoiding everything that causes the allergic reaction.
Some kinds of conjunctivitis is extremely contagious i.e. it can spread from person to person really fast. So here are some tips to help you not infect others and re-infect yourself again.
The first thing that you need to do if you have pink eyes is to stop wearing contact lenses if you use them. Buy a new pair when you return to wearing contacts. Chances are your old contact lenses that are infected and have the capability to cause you to get infected again.
If you have conjunctivitis caused by an allergic reaction then it is not contagious. For it to heal you need to stay away from whatever is causing the reaction. You can still go to work or school if you have it. To reduce the symptoms and get some relief you can :