Most people are familiar with occasional red irritated eyes, but how do you know if it is actually an eye infection or not? Pink eye, also known as Conjunctivitis is an inflammation to the clear membrane on the white of the eye, known as the Conjunctiva. There are several types of Conjunctivitis- viral, bacterial, allergic and chemical.
Viral Conjunctivitis may precede the common cold with symptoms that include, redness, tearing, itching, burning, blurry vision and light sensitivity. Usually viral conjunctivitis starts in one eye then transfers to the other eye. Just like the common cold it is contagious and it can spread. Thorough hand washing is important and washing towels and bed linens is necessary. Avoid using makeup and stop wearing contact lenses until your symptoms clear up and your doctor advises you to resume using.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis occurs when bacteria is introduced into the eye. Patients may experience thick discharge that is white or discolored and lashes may be stuck shut in the morning. Redness, irritation, burning and itching and swollen eyelids may be other symptoms associated with the infection. Your eye doctor may culture the discharge to determine the bacteria and treat with antibiotic eye drops or oral antibiotics. Just like viral conjunctivitis, thorough hand washing and disinfecting and washing towels is necessary to avoid spreading this contagious infection.
Allergic Conjunctivitis caused by allergens can produce redness, tearing, burning, itching and swelling. Patients may find relief by using allergy eye drops to reduce the symptoms. Cold compresses can be soothing to help with the swelling and irritation. Although both eyes may be affected by the allergens and cause symptoms, it is not contagious like viral or bacterial conjunctivitis. Removing the source of the allergens is helpful.
Chemical conjunctivitis caused by splashing or getting a chemical irritant into the eye can be painful. Be sure to rinse the eye continuously for at least 5 minutes. Seek medical advice from you eye doctor right away. Take the label or bottle with you to the doctor’s office.
As the season changes it seems that colds and flu are more common; so are eye infections and allergies. Be sure to check with your eye doctor to help diagnose your “pink eye” and get relief from those annoying symptoms.
Deborah O’Hara, C.O.A.