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Pink Eye: Types and Treatments

Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most frequently encountered eye diseases, especially when it comes to kids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria or even sensitivities to chlorine in pools, ingredients found in cosmetics, and pollen, or other substances that penetrate your eyes. Certain forms of pink eye may be highly communicable and quickly go around at schools and at the office.

Pink eye is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of your eye, gets inflamed. A good clue that you have conjunctivitis is if you notice discharge, redness, itching or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three main kinds: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.

The viral type is usually a result of a similar virus to that which produces the familiar watery and red eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by the viral form of conjunctivitis will usually be present for one to two weeks and then will clear up on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it's gone, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, remove eye discharge and try to avoid sharing pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Most often one should notice the symptoms disappearing within three or four days of antibiotic drops, but always be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to stop the infection from recurring.

Pink eye caused by allergies is not contagious or infectious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as pollen, pet dander or smoke that sets off an allergic response in their eyes. First of all, when treating allergic conjunctivitis, the irritant itself should be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the infection persists for an extended period, steroid eye drops could be tried.

In all instances of conjunctivitis, implementing proper hygiene is the surest way to prevent it from spreading. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and don't touch your eyes with your hands.

Conjunctivitis should always be diagnosed by an experienced optometrist to identify the cause and proper course of treatment. Don't ever treat yourself! Remember the earlier you begin treatment, the less likelihood you have of spreading the infection to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.