Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention.
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, develops when the blood vessels in the transparent membrane, or conjunctiva, that line the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball get inflamed and is most often caused by a virus or by a bacterial infection, although allergies, chemical agents, and underlying diseases can also play a role. The inflammation causes blood vessels to become more visible and gives the whites of the eyes a distinct pink or red tint, which is where the condition gets its name.
Pink eyes it caused by a bacterial or viral infection, pink eye can be very contagious.
It’s easily spread through poor hand washing or by sharing an object (like a towel) with someone who has it. It can also spread through coughing and sneezing, or it is spread to the individual by touching the infection in one’s own nose or sinus.
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Viral conjunctivitis is the most common form of pink eye and it is most commonly caused by a cold virus, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It can also be caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection of the eye. The bacteria is sometimes the same that causes strep throat.
On the other hand, allergic and foreign-substance-caused conjunctivitis aren’t contagious. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites or mold. On the other hand, irritant-caused pink eye can result from a foreign object in the eye, contact with chemicals, fumes, cosmetics or from wearing contact lenses for too long or without cleaning them properly.
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Redness of the eye is the typical, telltale symptom of pinkeye. Pinkeye is a common condition that is rarely serious and unlikely to cause long-term eye or vision damage if promptly detected and treated, for symptoms can occur in one or both eyes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of allergic pinkeye usually involve both eyes and almost always includes itching. Swelling of the eyelids is more common with bacterial and allergic pinkeye. They depend on the cause of the inflammation, but may include:
- Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
- Swollen conjunctiva
- More tears than usual
- Thick yellow discharge that crusts over the eyelashes, especially after sleep. It can make
- your eyelids stick shut when you wake up.
- Green or white discharge from the eye
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Blurred vision
- More sensitive to light
- Swollen lymph nodes (often from a viral infection)
“It usually starts in a single eye with goopy, thick crusted discharge — you wake up and the eye feels sealed like glue.”
The symptoms can vary depending on the cause. Viral conjunctivitis usually comes on quickly and can be associated with “cold” pink-eye-symptoms like runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, congestion. Bacterial conjunctivitis is often marked by thick, yellow-green discharge and can also exhibit cold-like symptoms. It can also sometimes accompany an ear infection, according to the NEI.
Pinkeye can cause mild sensitivity to light. A person who has severe symptoms, such as changes in eyesight, severe light sensitivity, or severe pain may have an infection that has spread beyond the conjunctiva and should be examined by a doctor.
It is always advisable to see a doctor if you have moderate to severe pain in the eye, vision problems that don’t improve when the discharge is wiped from the eyes and extreme redness in the eyes. If you have a weakened immune system or think you have viral pink eye and the symptoms worsen or don’t get any better with time, it’s also important to see a doctor, according to the NEI.
Virus conjunctivitis infections are typically mild and will resolve on its own within a week or two, according to the NEI. Mild bacteria-caused pink eye most often also resolves on its own, but antibiotic ointments or eye drops can hasten the process.
- A cold compress can also be used to sooth allergic conjunctivitis and a warm compress can be used to sooth viral or bacterial pink eye.
- Eye drops may also help alleviate dryness and help with swelling. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine.
- Contact lens wearers with pink eye should stop wearing their contact lenses until their eyes heal. They should also throw away any used contacts.
- Pink eye is usually contagious until the tearing, discharge and matting of the eyes goes away. This can last up to two weeks.
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- Pink eye can be highly contagious, especially in children, so it is important to take steps to prevent infection.
- Never touch your eyes or the area around your eyes without washing your hands first.
- Don ’t touch or rub your infected eye with your fingers. Use tissues to wipe.
- Be sure to discard old cosmetics and anything that comes in contact with your eyes during an infection.
- Never share makeup products.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially before eating.
- Keep your eyes clean. Wash any discharge from your eyes several times a day using a fresh cotton ball or paper towel. Afterward, discard the cotton ball or paper towel and wash your hands with soap and warm water.
- Wash or change your pillowcase every day until the infection goes away. When you do the laundry, clean your bed linens, pillowcases, and towels in hot water and detergent.
- Keep your own towels, washcloths, and pillows separate from others, or use paper towels.
- Don ’t wear, and never share, eye makeup, eyedrops, or contact lenses.
- Protect your eyes from dirt and other things that irritate them.