Red, Itchy Eyes? Perhaps it's Conjunctivitis
Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is a common eye infection, especially with kids. This condition can be caused by bacteria, a virus or irritants like ingredients found in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in swimming pools, or other products that penetrate the eyes. Certain kinds of conjunctivitis may be fairly contagious and easily infect many people in close proximity such as in school and in the home.
Conjunctivitis is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, gets inflamed. A good clue that you have pink eye is if you notice itching, redness, discharge or inflamed eyelids and crusty eyes in the morning. The three basic subtypes of pink eye are: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.
The viral type is often caused by the same virus that makes us have those familiar red and watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of viral pink eye will usually be present for one to two weeks and then will clear up on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile practice excellent hygiene, remove discharge and avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral pink eye, he or she will have to stay home from school from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye usually from something outside touching the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This type of pink eye is most commonly treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Usually you should notice an improvement after three or four days of treatment, but make sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to stop conjunctivitis from coming back.
Pink eye due to allergies is not contagious or infectious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as pollen, pet dander or smoke that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. The first step in relieving pink eye that is due to allergies is to remove the allergen, if possible. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, your eye doctor might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of lasting allergic conjunctivitis, steroid eye drops may be tried.
With any form conjunctivitis, being sure to practice good hygiene is the surest way to prevent it from spreading. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to clean your hands thoroughly.
Pink eye should always be diagnosed by an experienced optometrist to identify the type and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Keep in mind the earlier you begin treatment, the less likelihood you have of spreading conjunctivitis to others or prolonging your discomfort.