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Pink Eye: Types and Treatments

Pink eye, also referred to as conjunctivitis, is a frequently encountered eye illness, especially with kids. This infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses or even irritants, for example pollen, chlorine in pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other products that come in contact with your eyes. Certain kinds of pink eye are fairly transmittable and easily spread at school and in the office or home.

This type of infection is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue that covers the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. You'll be able to recognize conjunctivitis if you notice discharge, itching, redness or swollen eyelids and crusty eyes early in the day. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. The three main types of pink eye are: bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of the same viruses that are the source of the recognizable red, watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of viral conjunctivitis will often be present for one to two weeks and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to alleviate some of the symptoms by applying soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, wipe away discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. If your son or daughter has viral pink eye, he or she will have to be kept home from school for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.

Bacterial pink eye is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye usually from an external object touching the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This form of infection is most commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should notice an improvement within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to adhere to the complete prescription dosage to prevent pink eye from returning.

Pink eye that results from allergies is not transmittable. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as pollen, pet dander or smoke that sets off an allergic response in their eyes. First of all, when treating allergic conjunctivitis, you need to remove the irritant. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, your eye doctor might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. When the infection remains for a long time, topical steroid eye drops might be tried.

Conjunctivitis should always be examined by a professional optometrist in order to identify the type and proper course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Keep in mind the earlier you begin treatment, the lower likelihood you have of spreading conjunctivitis to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.

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