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Pink Eye: Don’t Let it Go Untreated

Conjunctivitis, colloquially called pink eye, is a frequently encountered eye infection, especially when it comes to kids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria or sensitivities to ingredients found in cosmetics, pollen, and chlorine in pools, or other products, which touch the eyes. Certain forms of conjunctivitis may be highly contagious and rapidly spread at school and in the home.

Pink eye develops when the thin clear layer of tissue protecting the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. You can identify pink eye if you notice itching, redness, discharge or swollen eyelids and crusty eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main kinds: bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of the same viruses that produce the recognizable watery and red eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of pink eye will usually be present for a week to two and then will disappear on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. The viral form of pink eye is transmittable until it's gone, so meanwhile, remove discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. Children who have viral pink eye will need to stay home for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye usually from something external entering the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of pink eye is most commonly treated with antibiotic cream or drops. Usually one should notice an improvement after just a few days of antibiotic drops, but make sure to complete the entire course of antibiotics to prevent conjunctivitis from coming back.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. It occurs more commonly in people who already have seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just a small part of their overall allergic response. The first step in treating allergic pink eye is to remove or avoid the allergen, if applicable. To ease discomfort, try artificial tears or compresses. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the infection remains for a long time, topical steroid eye drops could be prescribed.

Although pink eye is usually a highly treatable eye infection, it can sometimes worsen into a more serious condition. If you have signs of conjunctivitis, be sure to visit your optometrist so he or she can decide what the best treatment will be.