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What is Pink Eye? How do You Get Pink Eye?

Posted by Dr. J. R. Lacey, Therapeutic Optometrist

Feb 17, 2013 11:07:00 PM

What is Pink Eye?

How do You Get Pink Eye?

Pink eye is actually a non-medical term that is commonly used to describe the medical condition called conjunctivitis.  Some actually define pink eye as a certain type of conjunctivitis, such as an acute epidemic type of bacterial conjunctivitis; however, most eye doctors would probably assume any reference to pink eye as one of the various types of conjunctivitis.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is inflammation of the conjunctiva (a layer of the white part of the eye) where the blood vessels in the white part of the eye, or on the underside of the eyelids dilate making the eye appear pink or red.Pink Eye Conjunctivitis

What Causes Pink Eye?

There are many causes of pink eye/conjunctivitis but the main ones are listed below:

Viral conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus usually during or after someone acquires an upper respiratory infection or some sort of ailment caused by a virus.  Viral pink eye can be acquired through contact from a contaminated individual or surfaces such as a doorknob or shopping cart via hand to eye contact.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

This type of conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae or Staphylococcus aureus and can affect one or both eyes.  Like viral pink eye, bacterial conjunctivitis can be acquired through contact from a contaminated individual or contaminated surfaces through hand to eye contact.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is due to an allergic response that occurs within the eye.  More often than not individuals who suffer from eye allergies also suffer from systemic allergies.   The main allergens that cause this type of conjunctivitis are pet dander, pollen, mold and dust mites. 

Symptoms of Pink Eye?

Viral conjunctivitis Symptoms

The main symptoms will include red, irritated, and watery eyes.   It can affect both eyes at the same time or one eye initially, but then the infection often quickly spreads to the other eye.  Viral conjunctivitis/pink eye is highly contagious so good hygiene is recommended.  Eyes can feel sandy and gritty and almost have a foreign body sensation in the eyes.

Some viral conjunctivitis can be severe and cause definite life complications with substantial discomfort.  Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (EKC) if treated promptly can be minimized and reduced or eliminate severe discomfort and loss of productivity and work days.

 

Bacterial conjunctivitis Symptoms

Most people will experience redness, discharge (usually mucous-like and green or yellow in color), irritated eyes.  When the infection is bad, the eyes can be crusted or eyelashes matted shut upon waking after sleep making it difficult to open the eyes.  Like viral conjunctivitis, eyes can feel sandy and gritty and almost have a foreign body sensation in the eyes.

 

Allergic conjunctivitis Symptoms

The main symptoms of allergies in the eye will be intense itchy and watery eyes.  Burning eyes and puffy eyelids can also occur.

 

What is the Treatment for Pink Eye?

Viral conjunctivitis Treatment

Depending on the type of virus and severity level the treatment ranges. In some very mild cases the viral conjunctivitis is self-limiting and no treatment is necessary.  This mild form can resolve in about five to seven days.  Artificial tears can be used on an as needed basis to give the eyes temporary moisture and relief.

However, for most viral pink eye cases, the patient is quite miserable and wants and needs medical care ranging from antibiotic-steroid combination eye drops to an initial one time treatment of betadine for EKC that must be administered by an eye doctor.

Bacterial conjunctivitis Treatment

An antibiotic eye drop is prescribed for about seven to ten days to eliminate the infection. 

For both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis it is important to maintain good hygiene in order to prevent the infection from spreading.  Make sure hands are being washed regularly, and anything that has come into contact with the eye is washed or thrown out (specifically make up) until the infection has resolved.

Allergic conjunctivitis Treatment

Sometimes oral anti-histamine medicines such as Claritin or Zyrtec can eliminate the symptoms.  When that fails, topical anti-histamine eye drops are available.  Depending on the nature of the conjunctivitis the eye drops can be used on an as needed basis for seasonal conjunctivitis or everyday for year-around or chronic allergic conjunctivitis.   Corticosteroid eye drops (such as Lotemax) can also be used for short-term therapy for a more severe form of allergic conjunctivitis if no relief is given with anti-histamines.

Prognosis for Pink Eye Patients

With proper treatment, all types of pink eye usually can be cured without permanent vision loss.

Topics: Conjunctivitis, Pink Eye Causes, Pink Eye Symptoms, Pink Eye, Pink Eye Treatment, Red Eye

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