If you have red, itchy eyes, you may blame your symptoms on seasonal allergies.
While oftentimes allergies are the culprit, these symptoms can also be
a sign of pinkeye.
What is pinkeye?
Pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis, is inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva,
the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white of
the eye. When the tiny blood vessels in the eye become inflamed, they
are more visible, making the eye appear pink or red.
There are two types of pinkeye: viral and bacterial. Both are highly contagious
and spread easily, especially among children.
Viral pinkeye is commonly caused by an adenovirus, a common respiratory
virus also causing sore throat or upper respiratory infection. The herpes
virus can also cause viral pinkeye. Symptoms of viral pinkeye that vary
from bacterial pinkeye include itching or burning in the eye, lots of
tearing, swelling or tenderness in front of the ears or a clear, slightly
thick or white-colored discharge. Symptoms of viral pinkeye typically
last five to seven days but can become chronic.
Bacterial pinkeye develops when bacteria enters the eye or the area around
the eye, causing infection. Common infections causing bacterial pinkeye
include staph infection, gonorrhea, cat-scratch disease and haemophilus
influenza type b. Symptoms of bacterial pinkeye that vary from viral pinkeye
include gray or yellow drainage from the eye and swelling or drooping
of the upper eyelid. Bacterial pinkeye can last seven to 10 days without
antibiotics or two to four days with antibiotics.
There is no treatment for viral conjunctivitis. As is the case with most
viruses, pinkeye must run its course, which could take up to two or three
weeks. Symptoms should gradually clear up on their own. If viral pinkeye
is caused by the herpes simplex virus, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral
medication to aid healing.
Bacterial pinkeye can be treated with antibiotic eye ointment or eye drops
and symptoms should improve within a few days. To prevent recurrence of
the infection, be sure to keep using the prescribed ointment or drops
until they are gone.
Preventing the Spread of Pinkeye
Pinkeye is spread through poor hygiene, especially failure to properly
wash hands. It can also be spread by touching or sharing an infected object
or by coughing or sneezing. Because pinkeye spreads so easily, a child
who has been diagnosed with pinkeye should be kept home for at least 24
hours after beginning treatment.
Follow these tips to prevent the spread of pinkeye and protect yourself
- Wash your hands often.
- Do not touch your eyes with your hands.
- Use a clean towel and washcloth every day.
- Do not share towels, cosmetics or other personal items with anyone else.
- If you do contract pinkeye, throw away your eye cosmetics, including mascara
and any applicators that may have been near your eyes.
Pinkeye can be more serious if you have an immunodeficiency disorder, vision
in only one eye or wear contacts. If you are experiencing symptoms of pinkeye,
contact Key-Whitman to schedule an eye exam.