You’ve already noticed that left red eye yesterday, and today it’s starting to itch and swell. It’s almost covering the white of your left eye and it’s really irritating you. What’s worse is that your ears ache, you can’t stop tears from falling from your eyes, and you have a runny nose too! How bad can it be?
Pink Eye Defined
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis in clinical terms, is actually not an uncommon condition. An estimated 3 million kids and adults get conjunctivitis every year in the United States.
Conjunctivitis presents with a swelling and redness of the conjunctiva, which protects the white area of the eye or the sclera, and the membrane that lines the inner eyelid. When the eye is inflamed, the small blood vessels become obvious and give a pink or red appearance (which is why it has been called pink eye). It causes a burning sensation and is usually itchy and painful. Other manifestations include:
- Sensitive to bright light
- Green or yellow discharge in the eyes
- Blurred vision
- May be accompanied by a sore throat or a cough
Types of Pink Eye
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection in the eye due to Staph aureus or Streptococcus pneumonia. Children are the most affected by this type of conjunctivitis and often they are advised to stay home because they can contaminate other students. The discharge in the eye of a bacterial pink eye is usually yellowish or greenish.
Viral conjunctivitis, on the other hand, is caused by a lot of viruses, but the most common are adenovirus and herpes virus. This type of pink eye is accompanied by cold and cough and presents with watery eyes with white discharge. Viral pink eye is more contagious than bacterial pink eye and although no antibiotics and other medications are prescribed for it, one is advised to see his doctor so that it can be properly diagnosed. Viral pinkeye is highly contagious and may last for 10 to 12 days.
Allergic conjunctivitis is the mildest form of pinkeye and is not at all contagious. It is more commonly caused by allergens like dust, pollen, and mold. People apply eye drops to their eyes but it has been discovered recently that eye drops can aggravate the pain and can cause the pink eye to recur over and over again.
Other forms of pinkeye that are less common are giant papillary conjunctivitis, which is seen in people who use soft-type contact lenses, and vernal conjunctivitis, which is seen in people who have a family history of allergies and asthma.
Ways to Treat Pinkeye
Pink eye will usually resolve on its own but it would be best to apply ice packs on the eye to reduce the inflammation. Antibiotics don’t cure someone with viral conjunctivitis but there are antiviral medications that can be prescribed by your doctor to hasten healing.
Bacterial pinkeye may be treated with antibiotics as these have shown to shorten the healing period and therefore decrease the chances of contaminating others. Bleph, Zymar, and Ocumycin are some of the known eye drops and ointments that are used to treat bacterial pinkeye.
Ways to Prevent Pinkeye
Prevention is better than cure. Here are some tips on how to avoid getting pink eye.
- Always wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer.
- Don’t share towels, handkerchiefs, sunglasses or pillows.
- Apply room spray and air sanitizer in your home to keep away from allergens.
- Do not directly touch your eyes!