Conjunctivitis, informally referred to as pink eye, is a frequently seen eye infection, especially with kids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even irritation from ingredients in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in swimming pools, or other chemicals, which touch your eyes. Some forms of pink eye may be highly transmittable and easily spread in schools and at the home.
Pink eye is seen when the thin clear layer of tissue lining the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, gets inflamed. You'll be able to recognize pink eye if you notice redness, itching, discharge, or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. The three main subtypes of conjunctivitis are: allergic, bacterial and viral conjunctivitis.
The viral type is usually a result of the same viruses that produce the familiar watery and red eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of viral pink eye will often last from a week to two and then will resolve themselves on their own. You may however, be able to relieve some of the symptoms by using soothing drops or compresses. The viral form of conjunctivitis is contagious until it's gone, so in the meantime practice excellent hygiene, wipe away any discharge and try to avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral pink eye will need to be kept home for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.
A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Usually one should see the symptoms disappearing after three or four days of treatment, but always be sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from recurring.
Pink eye caused by allergies is not contagious or infectious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that triggers an allergic response in their eyes. First of all, when treating allergic conjunctivitis, you have to eliminate the irritant. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the pink eye remains for a long time, steroid eye drops might be tried.
Conjunctivitis should always be checked out by a qualified optometrist to identify the type and proper course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Remember the earlier you start treatment, the less chance you have of spreading conjunctivitis to others or suffering unnecessarily.