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Pink Eye: Don’t Let it Go Untreated

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a frequently encountered eye illness, particularly with children. Pink eye can be caused by bacteria, viruses or irritation from chlorine in swimming pools, ingredients in cosmetics, and pollen, or other irritants, which come in contact with your eyes. Some types of conjunctivitis are quite contagious and swiftly go around at schools and in the home or office.

Conjunctivitis ensues when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye, gets inflamed. It's easy to recognize pink eye if you notice redness, itching, discharge, or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. The three main subtypes of conjunctivitis are: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is often a result of the same kind of virus that is 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 seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is contagious until it is completely cleared up, so meanwhile, remove any discharge and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. Children who have viral pink eye should stay home from school for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.

The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should notice an improvement after three or four days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious or infectious. It occurs more commonly in those who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just one aspect of a larger allergic reaction. First of all, to treat allergic pink eye, you have to eliminate the allergen. To ease discomfort, cool compresses and artificial tears may help. When the infection is more severe, your optometrist might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of chronic allergic pink eye, topical steroid eye drops could be used.

With any case pink eye, being sure to practice sanitary habits is the first rule of thumb. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, be certain to wash your hands well.

Conjunctivitis should always be checked out by a professional eye doctor in order to identify the cause and best course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Remember the earlier you start treatment, the lower chance you have of giving pink eye to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.