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Understanding Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, is a frequently seen eye illness, particularly with children. This condition can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies to ingredients found in cosmetics, chlorine in swimming pools, and pollen, or other substances that come into contact with your eyes. Many types of conjunctivitis are highly communicable and quickly spread in school and at the home or office.

Pink eye develops when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue lining the white part of the eye, gets inflamed. A good clue that you have conjunctivitis is if you notice eye discharge, itching, redness or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. The three basic kinds of conjunctivitis are: allergic, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.

The viral manifestation is often caused by a similar virus to that which is the source of the familiar red and watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of viral pink eye can stick around for a week to two and then will disappear on their own. If you feel uncomfortable symptoms, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. Viral conjunctivitis is transmittable until it's gone, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, wipe away eye discharge and try to avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at home from school 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. One should notice the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always make sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to stop pink eye from recurring.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious. 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. First of all, when treating allergic conjunctivitis, the irritant itself needs to be removed. To ease discomfort, cool compresses and artificial tears may help. In more severe cases, your optometrist might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the conjunctivitis persists for an extended period, topical steroid eye drops may be tried.

With any case pink eye, implementing good hygiene is the best way to keep it from getting worse. Wash your hands thoroughly and often and don't touch your eyes with your hands.

Pink eye should always be checked out by a qualified optometrist in order to identify the type and proper course of treatment. Never self prescribe! Remember the sooner you start treatment, the less chance you have of spreading conjunctivitis to loved ones or suffering longer than you have to.


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