What causes pink eye and how do you treat it?
“Pink eye,” also known under its more technical term, conjunctivitis, is an inflammatory problem with the eye. Those suffering from pink eye have inflammation in a part of the eye known as the conjunctiva, which is the outer layer of the eye and the inside part of the eyelid. Typically pink eye occurs because of an infection that is either viral, bacterial, or sometimes because of an allergic reaction.
What Is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is typically split into five categories, which are defined based on the cause of the conjunctivitis: allergic, viral, bacterial, chemical, and neonatal. Symptoms of pink eye include redness in and around the eye, swelling of the conjunctiva, and itching and watering of the eyes. The most common type is viral conjunctivitis, spread by viral infections passed from person to person or occasionally passed through contaminated material or water.
Often, those with pink eye caused by viral infection have other symptoms associated with the pink eye, like cold symptoms, sore throats, and upper respiratory tract infections. Most people begin with pink eye in just one eye, which then later spreads by viral infection to the other eye.
What is Bacterial Conjunctivitis?
Bacterial conjunctivitis differs from the viral version of pink eye in that the symptoms can actually be difference. In the bacterial type of pink eye, symptoms can also include grittiness, irritation, and discharge coming out of the eye. Crusting in the eye and in the surrounding area may occur. Sometimes, as a result, those suffering from bacterial forms of pink eye may have difficulty opening their eyes due to the crusting, particularly in the morning after eyes have been closed while sleeping.
How To Prevent Pink Eye?
The best way to prevent pink eye is general good health practices and cleanliness. This includes hand washing and hand sanitizing as well as not touching the hands to the face or eyes.
Bacterial types of pink eye usually end up being resolved without treatment and eye drops, eye ointments, and antibiotics are frequently avoidable. However, some bacterial pink eye cases are in fact the result of sexually transmitted disease, and are a symptom of those larger bacterial infections. In these scenarios, antibiotics or other treatment are typically necessary to get rid of the pink eye.
No treatment is usually recommended for viral conjunctivitis cases. They typically go away on their own within about two weeks’ time. Antiviral medications may be prescribed in cases where it is clear that the viral pink eye symptoms stem from a virus like herpes.
For allergic pink eye cases, traditional allergy medications may be prescribed or recommended, including eye drops, antihistamines, and steroids. Your doctor will be able to tell if your pink eye case is an allergic reaction and how best to treat it.
Conjunctivitis can be frustrating and uncomfortable for those suffering from it. Luckily, it frequently goes away on its own without the use of drugs or topical solutions. Hand washing, not touching the eyes, and avoiding contact with others while you are symptomatic is the best way to protect those around you from contracting pink eye as well.
Paul Chai is a health & wellness enthusiast writer with interests around conjunctivitis and pink eye treatments for adults.