Symptoms, Causes and Treatments for Conjunctivitis
If you managed to escape childhood without a case of pink eye, consider yourself lucky. According to the National Eye Institute, pink eye is one of the most common and treatable eye conditions in children and adults. About 3 million cases of pink eye occur in the United States each year. That’s a lot of gross.
So let’s talk about it. What causes it? What are the symptoms? And most importantly, how do you get rid of it??
Pink Eye Defined
Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is an irritation or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which covers the white part of the eyeball. It can be caused by allergies or a bacterial or viral infection. Conjunctivitis can be extremely contagious and is spread by contact with eye secretions from someone who is infected.
Causes/Types of Pink Eye
The three types of pink eye are:
- Viral conjunctivitis. This kind of pink eye is caused by a virus such as the common cold and is very contagious. The good news, this type usually clears up on its own within a few days without medical treatment.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis. This type of pink eye is caused by bacteria and won’t get better on its own. It requires an antibiotic to clear up. It can cause serious damage to the eye if left untreated.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by eye irritants such as pollen, dust and animal dander among people who are susceptible to those allergens. Allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal (pollen) or flare up year-round (dust; pet dander). This type is not contagious.
Pink Eye Symptoms
As you might assume, the most common symptom of pink eye is an eye that has a pinkish-red, irritated appearance. Other symptoms depend on which type of pink eye you have and can range from watery, itchy, burning eyes to a sticky, yellow or greenish-yellow eye discharge in one or both eyes.
If you think you (or your child) might have pink eye, it’s best to see an eye doctor who can perform a physical exam to confirm diagnosis. Left untreated, certain types of pink eye (the bacterial varieties) can lead to infections of the cornea, eyelids and even tear ducts. Better to be safe than sorry!
Ophthalmia neonatorum is a severe form of bacterial conjunctivitis that can occur in newborn babies. It is a serious condition that could lead to permanent eye damage if it is not treated immediately. Ophthalmia neonatorum occurs when a baby is exposed to the sexually-transmitted diseases chlamydia or gonorrhea while passing through the birth canal. For several years, it has been standard procedure (in the U.S.) to apply antibiotic ointment to babies’ eyes as a preventive measure.
Treatment for Pink Eye
As with pink eye causes and symptoms, pink eye treatment depends on which type of pink eye you have.
- Viral conjunctivitis. In most cases, viral conjunctivitis will run its course over a period of several days with no medical intervention required. Applying a cold, wet washcloth to the eyes several times a day can relieve symptoms. (Just don’t share this washcloth with others!)
- Bacterial conjunctivitis. Your Eye Medical Clinic eye doctor or even a primary care physician typically will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments for the treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis. If severe infection is present, oral antibiotics might be necessary.
- Allergic conjunctivitis. Allergy medications can help prevent or shorten cases of allergic conjunctivitis. Check with your Eye Medical Clinic doctor for details.
Remember, because a red or pink eye can be a symptom of many different types of eye problems — some that can be quite serious — make sure you consult with your eye doctor. Routine comprehensive eye examinations by your Eye Medical Clinic eye doctor are the best safeguard for maintaining good vision at any stage of life.
Comprehensive Eye Care for the Whole Family
Eye Medical Clinic has both optometrists and ophthalmologists on our experienced team of eye specialists! We have proudly served the Bay Area for more than 70 years and we are fully equipped to care for the eye needs of the youngest member of your family to the most senior member.
We invite you to experience our expert eye care for every generation at Eye Medical Clinic. Our team of experienced doctors John Sullivan, MD; Mona Bagga, MD and Christina Nguyen Deane, OD, as well as a highly trained and dedicated staff, is dedicated to helping you enjoy your life to the fullest…with the clear vision you deserve. Schedule your comprehensive eye exam today.