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Pink Eye: Types and Treatments

Conjunctivitis, colloquially called pink eye, is one of the most frequently seen eye diseases, particularly with children. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria or evenallergens like pollen, ingredients found in cosmetics, and chlorine in swimming pools, or other products that touch your eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis may be very contagious and rapidly cause a pink eye outbreak in school and in the home.

This infection occurs when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue covering the white part of your eye, becomes inflamed. You can recognize the infection if you notice eye discharge, redness, itching or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. There are three main subtypes of conjunctivitis: allergic, bacterial and viral conjunctivitis.

The viral manifestation is usually caused by a similar virus to that which produces the familiar watery and red eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of viral pink eye are likely to be present for a week to two and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. Viral conjunctivitis is transmittable until it's gone, so in the meanwhile remove any discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. Children who have viral pink eye should be kept home from school for three days to a week until it clears up.

Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye typically from an external object such as a finger, makeup or lotion. This type of pink eye is usually treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Most often you should notice the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to adhere to the complete antibiotic prescription to prevent the infection from recurring.

Conjunctivitis caused by allergies is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that triggers an allergic reaction in their eyes. First of all, to treat allergic pink eye, the irritant itself should be removed. For mild cases, try artificial tears or compresses. In more severe cases, your optometrist might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis, topical steroid eye drops could be used.

With any form pink eye, implementing sanitary habits is the first rule of thumb. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to clean your hands thoroughly.

Even though pink eye is usually a minor eye infection, there is sometimes a chance it could deteriorate into a more severe issue. Any time you think you have pink eye, be certain to have your eye doctor take a look in order to decide how to best to treat it.