Pink Eye

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, represents the consequence of an inflammation that affects the blood vessels in the conjunctiva or the transparent membrane. The swelling of the veins covers the white of the eye with a distinguishable pink or red tinge, hence the name of the condition. Allergies, viruses and bacterial infections as well as chemical agents are all triggers that could lead to pink eye. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, which means that anyone encountering or sharing objects with an infected person can get it because the transmission of pink eye among people occurs through contact. If a person with this condition sneezes or coughs around other individuals, it can spread the virus. Therefore, remaining secluded and avoiding human interaction as much as possible for a specific period will prevent the spreading. Nevertheless, this applies only to viral conjunctivitis because other forms of pin eye, caused by chemical agents or allergic reactions are not contagious. Eye redness is the most distinctive symptom of conjunctivitis, which even though is common, fortunately does not lead to alarming complications like vision damage. Establishing a diagnosis is quite simple because the doctor usually just examines the eye while taking in to consideration the characteristics symptoms. The treatment for pink eye consists in applying ointments and eye drops as well as taking pills.


Prevention of Pink Eye

Considering that conjunctivitis spreads through human contact after touching the eye drainage, the most efficient method of prevention is washing hands thoroughly and as often as possible, especially before and after applying the medicine in the eye or touching the face. Specialists forbid sharing personal items or eye cosmetics and recommend changing the pillowcases often as well as disinfecting touched surfaces like doorknobs and countertops. Furthermore, people must avoid wearing contact lenses until doctors confirm the complete healing of the eye. However, the safest prevention method remains staying indoors until the eye discharge disappears entirely. If the condition affects a child, the parent must keep him away from school or interacting with other friends for at least 24 hours after receiving medical treatment and if the condition affects an adult, he must avoid going to work or remain consistent in terms of practicing excellent hygiene.


Infectious Pink Eye

Viral pink eye represents the most common form of conjunctivitis caused by viral infections, which spreads though both direct and indirect contact with the watery discharge of an infected person, thus being very contagious. Early spring and late fall create a good environment for viral pink eye so apart from characteristic symptoms, the person in question may also experience runny nose and sinus congestion. In some cases, patients experience sensitivity to light meaning they cannot look at bright lights without causing them pain, not to mention the swollen eyelids and reddened inner eyelids. The symptoms may last approximately two weeks. Seeking medical attention becomes imperative for correct detection and proper treatment for viral conjunctivitis.

Bacterial pink eye is another contagious form of conjunctivitis, characterized by symptoms that include redness, swelling, itching, pain or burning sensation in the eye area along with a yellow or greenish discharge of a thick consistency. The unpleasant and uncomfortable discharge accumulates overnight and for this reason, many people with conjunctivitis wake up having crusty eyelashes and encounter difficulties in opening their eyes like they normally do. The solution in this type of situation is applying a warm washcloth on the area with the purpose to remove that discharge. Doctors usually prescribe for bacterial pink eye antibiotic eye drops and ointments. Moreover, they have to assess the spreading extent of the infection in other areas despite the lack of recognizable symptoms.


Non-Infectious Pink Eye

Allergic pink eye does not cause eye pain in the majority of cases. However, the characteristic signs and symptoms come along with swollen eye membranes, tearing and itching. Some of the most frequent causes refer to animal dander, seasonal pollen and even dust. Because of this, normal allergy symptoms like itchy nose and scratchy throat as well as sneezing accompany signs of allergic pink eye. Cold and moist compresses and decongestant eye drops that someone can obtain from the pharmacies generally offer the much-needed relief when having this form of conjunctivitis.  Doctors can offer patients something stronger if the remedies mentioned do not provide satisfactory results. Nevertheless, the most helpful action is preventing exposure to the allergens that caused the reaction in the first place.

Chemical pink eye represents the negative result of irritating substances entering the eye. These irritants involve smoke and smog, household cleaners and sprays as well as industrial pollutants, which means that people are susceptible to this from of conjunctivitis both at home and at the workplace. When feeling a foreign body entering the eye or any other of the irritants mentioned above, washing the eyes thoroughly with plenty of water is crucial. Because some chemical products can prove to be very damaging for the health of the eye, it is important to contact the doctor even after washing the area.

Another cause for non-infectious pink eye can be the presence of an underlying disease in the body, such as reactive arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Trauma or alterations of pressure in the head can lead to rupture of blood vessels in the eye, thus covering the whites of the eye with a bright redness. Even though it may sound terrifying, this condition is harmless because it does not provoke vision damage.


Diagnosis of Pink Eye

Mainly, doctors can establish a correct diagnosis for pink eye just by inquiring the patient about his current symptoms and health history. It is not difficult for an experienced doctor to realize immediately the problem he must deal with, taking into account that not many conditions manifest with those characteristic signs and symptoms. However, in order to be certain in what concerns the diagnosis, he continues with a detailed physical examination of the patient’s eyes by using a slit lamp instrument. Practically, he must consider the type of discharge, associated medical conditions including diabetes and autoimmune disorders as well as exposure to foreign bodies or chemicals, the presence of blurred vision and contact lens wear. In some cases, the doctor takes a sample of the eye drainage and sends it to the laboratory for analysis purposes. This happens only when the patient presents severe symptoms and when the doctor believes that a high-risk cause led to the appearance of pink eye, such as a worrying bacterial infection and even an infection transmitted through sexual contact.


Treatment for Pink Eye

When treating pink eye, various doctors including primary-care physicians, ophthalmologists and other specialists come together, assess the situation and agree on the most adequate treatment method. Doctors provide medical treatment for conjunctivitis while keeping in mind the leading cause of the condition, namely bacteria, viruses, allergens, irritable substances or a foreign body. In case of viral infections, the doctor does not recommend a specific treatment because the body naturally fights the virus and it generally lasts approximately two weeks. In certain cases, doctors prescribe medication if they suspect cornea damage. Nevertheless, the patient can apply in the meantime a wet and cool washcloth on the area to relieve the symptoms and feel more comfortable. Unlike viral conjunctivitis, bacterial pink eye does require antibiotics including levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin and tobramycin, among others. Before providing the necessary treatment, the doctor must assess the type of bacteria and laboratory analysis can help in this regard. If left untreated, bacterial conjunctivitis can provoke serious complications, possibly leading to permanent vision loss. Allergic pink eye does respond to anti-inflammatory medications so doctors place drops of steroids in the patient’s eye.


Home Remedies for Pink Eye

The patients can feel free to use certain home remedies for pink eye, which have the purpose to reduce pain and impede the accumulation of drainage in the eye. Those who usually wear contact lens must switch to glasses until the symptoms disappear completely and clean properly both the contacts and the glasses case. For conjunctivitis caused by infection, the patient should apply warm and moist compresses on the affected area to reduce swelling and redness as well as a feeling of relief. On the other hand, when it comes to allergic conjunctivitis, he should use a cold compress and avoid warm compresses at all costs because they can spread infection to the other eye, which means that the patient should also avoid using the same compression for both eyes.

In terms of eye cleaning, using a clean surface to wipe from the nose area towards the outside and not the other way around is imperative. Moreover, the patient must change the washcloth after each wipe to prevent rubbing the drainage back across the eyes and then put it in the laundry. Doctors encourage throwing in the trash bin any wipes and tissues used for cleaning the unpleasant eye liquid. After thoroughly wiping the area in question, the patient must wash his hands because this action will prevent the conjunctivitis to spread.

If the person with conjunctivitis experiences increased sensitivity to light, persistent eye pain, infection development and severe symptoms, he must call the doctor immediately.


Prognosis for Pink Eye

In most cases, pink eye heals excellently without causing complications on the long term. Nevertheless, doctors confirm the existence of certain situations where the patients cannot get away that easily. For instance, if the patient suffers from an underlying disease when having conjunctivitis, this may cause its recurrence over time. In addition, if a person with persistent conjunctivitis does not seek medical attention and care early, severe eye infections could provoke vision loss. In conclusion, although it does not represent an alarming condition, it is important to consult a doctor if noticing specific signs and symptoms of pink eye.


Common Myths about Pink Eye

“Infectious conjunctivitis only affects children” is a common statement among people, but it actually represents a myth. The link of this condition with the little ones appeared from the belief that children do not know how to prevent its development or how to protect themselves from it. This led people believe that pink eye affects just children. However, the reality is different. According to researchers, adults face equal risks of experiencing the characteristic symptoms of infectious conjunctivitis because viruses and bacteria can reach to anyone, regardless of the age.

“Eye drops make conjunctivitis disappear quickly” is another popular misconception that leads people into thinking that just by obtaining some over the counter eye drops from the pharmacy will instantly cure them from pink eye. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis usually lasts between one and two weeks meaning that even if the person applies those eye drops, the condition will remain until it completes the cycle. Doctors prescribe certain antibiotics with the goal to lessen the symptoms.

“Conjunctivitis can lead to permanent vision loss” is a false statement that scares people into thinking that pink eye represents a more severe condition that it actually is. Although infectious conjunctivitis is more serious than non-infectious conjunctivitis manifesting with itching, tearing and intense burning sensation, with the proper medical treatment both form of pink eye will completely disappear after approximately two weeks. For this reason, seeking medical advice becomes imperative when noticing distinctive signs in the eye area. Blurriness may represent a symptom that convinced people of the fact that pink eye could lead to blindness.

“You can get conjunctivitis just by making eye contact” is not true because fortunately, spreading conjunctivitis is not that easy. Even though some forms of pink eye are contagious, a person has to touch or share an object with the patient in order to experience the same condition. Moreover, patients usually remain secluded and take other measures after the diagnosis for impeding conjunctivitis to spread.

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018

Chris Riley

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