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Optometric Insight: Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is one of the most frequently encountered eye diseases, particularly when it comes to children. This condition can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies to chlorine in pools, pollen, and ingredients found in cosmetics, or other chemicals, which touch the eyes. Some kinds of conjunctivitis might be fairly communicable and swiftly infect many people in close proximity such as in school and at the office.

This infection develops when the thin transparent layer of tissue protecting the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. A sign that you have pink eye is if you notice discharge, itching, redness or swollen eyelids and crusty eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three basic kinds: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of the same type of viruses that are the source of the recognizable watery and red eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of pink eye will usually stick around for one to two weeks and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. If you feel uncomfortable symptoms, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. The viral form of pink eye is transmittable until it's gone, so meanwhile, remove any discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, you will need to keep him/her at home from school from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a common bacterial infection that gets into the eye usually from something external entering the eye that carries the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This type of infection is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should notice the symptoms disappearing after three or four days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to adhere to the full antibiotic prescription to stop the infection from returning.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious or infectious. It occurs more commonly among 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 their overall allergic response. The first step in alleviating allergic conjunctivitis is to eliminate or avoid the irritant, if possible. To ease discomfort, try artificial tears or compresses. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the pink eye persists for a long time, topical steroid eye drops might be used.

With any case pink eye, practicing 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.

Although pink eye is often a minor eye infection, there is sometimes a chance it could evolve into a more severe problem. If you think you have pink eye, be sure to visit your eye doctor in order to see how to best to treat it.