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Pink Eye: Don’t Let It Go Untreated

Conjunctivitis, informally referred to as pink eye, is one of the most frequently encountered eye diseases, especially in children. This infection can be caused by a virus, bacteria or irritants like chlorine in pools, pollen, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants, which come in contact with the eyes. Some kinds of pink eye may be highly transmittable and easily spread at schools and in the home.

Pink eye develops when the thin transparent layer of tissue over the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. You'll be able to identify pink eye if you notice redness, discharge, itching or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty in the morning. There are three main subtypes of conjunctivitis: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by the same viruses that make us have those familiar watery and red eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by the viral form of conjunctivitis can be present for seven to fourteen days 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, maintain excellent hygiene, wipe away any discharge and try to avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral pink eye, you will need to keep him/her at home from school from school for three days to a week until it clears up.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a common bacterial infection that enters the eye often from an external object entering the eye that is carrying the bacteria, such as a dirty finger. This type of conjunctivitis is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice an improvement within three or four days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to stop pink eye from returning.

Pink eye due to allergies is not transmittable. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that triggers an allergic response in their eyes. The first step in treating conjunctivitis that is a result of allergies is to eliminate or avoid the allergen, if possible. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor may decide to give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of persistent allergic infections, steroid eye drops may be prescribed.

With any case pink eye, practicing sanitary habits is the best way to prevent it from spreading. Clean your hands thoroughly and frequently and don't touch your eyes with your hands.

Pink eye should always be diagnosed by a qualified optometrist to identify the type and proper course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Remember the sooner you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving conjunctivitis to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.