Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
Pink eye — also known as conjunctivitis — is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent membrane that covers the white part of the eye (sclera) and the inner surface of your eyelids.
Some forms of conjunctivitis are infectious and can spread very quickly, a fact that’s given pink eye a notorious reputation. Pink eye is most commonly associated with itching and burning in the eyes, discharge, and pink or red discoloration to the whites of the eyes. Pink eye often starts in one eye and then spreads to the other one.
Pink eye is a very common eye problem, especially in children. But with proper management, it rarely causes long-term vision damage.
Signs and Symptoms of Pink Eye.
Symptoms of pink eye can vary from person to person and depending on the type of conjunctivitis involved. In general, symptoms may include:
- Pink or red discoloration in the white of one or both eyes
- Pain in one or both eyes that can include itching, burning, or a gritty feeling
- Watery or gritty discharge from one or both eyes that may cause your eyelids to be stuck together when you wake up in the morning
- Swollen eyelids
- Excessive tearing
- Sensitivity to bright light
Also see: What Causes Eye Lacerations and Injuries
A: Pink eye is most commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection, but it can also be triggered by allergies or exposure to irritants such as air pollution, smoke, and cosmetics.
A: Pink eye is spread by hand-to-eye contact or if the eye comes in contact with a contaminated object. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can be spread through the air by coughing and sneezing.
A: There are several types, including infectious conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis, irritant or chemical conjunctivitis, and ophthalmia neonatorum.
A: Symptoms of pink eye may include pink or red discoloration in the white of the eye, eye pain or itching, gritty or watery discharge, or sensitivity to bright light.
A: Conjunctivitis has been associated with certain conditions, including psoriatic disease, the removal of enlarged adenoids, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Causes and Risk Factors of Pink Eye.
The condition is commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections or an allergic reaction. Exposure to irritants such as air pollution, smoke, and cosmetics can also trigger it. And in babies, an incompletely open tear duct can cause pink eye. Less commonly, conjunctivitis can be caused by sexually transmitted infections like herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
Pink eye is spread by hand-to-eye contact or if the eye comes in contact with contaminated objects. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can also be spread through the air by coughing and sneezing
There are several types of conjunctivitis, each with a different cause. More common types include:
- Infectious Conjunctivitis
- Allergic Conjunctivitis
- Irritant or Chemical Conjunctivitis
Is Pinkeye Contagious.
Pinkeye is contagious if it's caused by bacteria or a virus:
- Pinkeye that's caused by bacteria can spread to others as soon as symptoms appear and for as long as there's discharge from the eye — or until 24 hours after antibiotics are started.
- Pinkeye that's caused by a virus is generally contagious before symptoms appear and can remain so as long as the symptoms last.
Allergic conjunctivitis and irritant conjunctivitis are not contagious.
A child can get pinkeye by touching an infected person or something an infected person has touched, such as a used tissue. In the summertime, pinkeye can spread when kids swim in contaminated water or share contaminated towels. It also can spread through coughing and sneezing.
Also, someone who has pinkeye in one eye can spread it to the other eye by rubbing or touching the infected eye, then touching the other eye.
How Is Pinkeye Diagnosed.
If you think your child has pinkeye, it's important to see your health care provider to learn what's causing it and how to treat it. Other serious eye conditions can have similar symptoms, so a child who complains of severe pain, changes in eyesight, swelling around the eyes, or sensitivity to light should be examined.
How Is Pinkeye Treated.
Pinkeye caused by a virus usually goes away without any treatment. Pinkeye caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
It can be hard to get kids to tolerate eye drops several times a day. If you're having trouble, put the drops on the inner corner of your child's closed eye — when your child opens the eye, the medicine will flow into it. If you still have trouble with drops, ask the doctor about antibiotic ointment, which can be placed in a thin layer where the eyelids meet, and will melt and enter the eye.
If your child has allergic conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe anti-allergy medicine, either as pills, liquid, or eye drops.
Also see: When Is Eye Twitching a Sign of a Stroke
How Can Parents Help.
Using cool or warm compresses on the eyes may make your child more comfortable. Clean the edges of the infected eye carefully with warm water and gauze or cotton balls. This can also remove the crusts of dried discharge that make the eyelids stick together in the morning.
If your child wears contact lenses, your doctor or eye doctor may recommend that the lenses not be worn until the infection is gone. Then, disinfect the lenses and their storage case at least twice before letting your child wear them again. If your child wears disposable contact lenses, throw away the current pair and use a new pair after the infection is gone.
Doctors usually recommend keeping kids with contagious conjunctivitis out of school, childcare, or summer camp for a short time.
Can Pinkeye Be Prevented.
Infectious conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so teach kids to wash their hands well and often with warm water and soap. They also should not share eye drops, tissues, eye makeup, washcloths, towels, or pillowcases. Be sure to wash your own hands well after touching an infected child's eyes, and throw away items like gauze or cotton balls after they've been used. Wash towels and other linens that the child has used in hot water separately from the rest of the family's laundry to avoid contamination.
If you know your child is prone to allergic conjunctivitis, keep windows and doors closed on days when the pollen is heavy, and dust and vacuum often to limit allergy triggers. Irritant conjunctivitis can only be prevented by avoiding the irritating causes. Screening and treating pregnant women for STDs can prevent many cases of pinkeye in newborns. A pregnant woman may have bacteria in her birth canal even if she shows no symptoms, which is why prenatal screening is important.
If your child has increased swelling, redness, and tenderness in the eyelids and around the eye, along with a fever, visit or call the Children Emergency Room for the medical help. Those symptoms may mean the infection has started to spread beyond the conjunctiva and will need more treatment.
We have ER locations across the DFW metroplex that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.
We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.