What is Pink Eye?

Young woman with painful eye

Please note that the below information is intended to be observed as guidelines, and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your eye doctor with any questions you may have regarding pink eye or a medical condition.

During the spring and summer months when seasonal allergies are at their height, itchy eyes tend to be a common complaint.

However, if your itchy eyes aren’t going away, and seem to be getting worse, they may be the symptom of pink eye.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, occurs when the conjunctiva (the clear tissue covering the white part of your eye), becomes irritated due to an infection or allergies, and could be highly contagious.

People with pink eye typically experience red, swollen eyes that sometimes produce a sticky discharge.

Symptoms include:

● Itchy eyes
The feeling that something is in your eye, or a gritty sensation
● Burning eyes
● Watery eyes
● Swollen eyelids
● Sensitivity to light
● Mucus, pus, or yellow discharge from your eye

Types of Pink Eye

Viral conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is the most common type of pink eye, and often spreads through crowded places like schools. Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis typically include red eyes with a watery discharge. Viral pink eye is often compared to a common cold of the eye. Like the common cold, this kind of pink eye typically goes away on its own within 1-2 weeks.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is the result of an infection in the eye due to bacteria. This type of pink eye tends to produce much more mucus and pus than other types of pink eye, and can be treated with antibiotics.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction. Due to this, this type of pink eye is not contagious. Allergic pink eye typically makes your eyes red, itchy, and watery, and may cause your eyelids to swell.

Pink Eye Diagnosis

If you think you might have pink eye, please call your doctor and ask for their professional opinion and recommendation for what kind of pink eye you might have, and a proper treatment plan.

Treatments for Pink Eye

Viral Pink Eye

As stated above, most pink eye (viral pink eye), goes away on its own within 1-2 weeks. During that time, there are several things you can do to alleviate your symptoms and prevent spreading it to anyone else:

Stop wearing your contact lenses. If you wear contact lenses, they are most likely infected, and could get you sick again if you continue to wear them. Take a break from wearing them until the pink eye has healed, and then replace them with a new pair.
Stop wearing eye makeup. Like your contact lenses, anything that has been in contact with your eye is likely now infected, and could spread the virus. Throw out your old eye makeup and buy new eye makeup when your pink eye has healed.
Avoid touching your eyes. Due to the fact that most types of pink eye are contagious, it’s important to try and avoid touching (or rubbing) your eyes while they’re infected.
Change your pillowcases and sheets every day. Anything that touches your eye is most likely infected, so to further prevent the spread of pink eye, change your pillowcases and sheets daily, use a clean towel, and wash your hands frequently.
Use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops. Do not use red-reducing eye drops like Visine, as these can actually irritate your eye further.
Press a clean, warm, damp compress on your eyes for a few minutes. This can provide additional relief from itching, and can also help to break up any mucus or discharge that is present around your eyes.
Take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter painkiller to relieve any discomfort.

Bacterial Pink Eye

Bacterial pink eye can be treated using the same methods as viral pink eye. However, due to the excess pus typically produced due to bacterial pink eye, you may be prescribed antibiotics to aid in the healing of the infection.

Allergic Pink Eye

Allergic pink eye is the only type of pink eye that isn’t contagious, and can be treated much like you would treat itchy eyes in any other setting, including allergy medication, over-the-counter lubricating eye drops, and a cold compress.

The main thing you should remember when treating allergic pink eye is to remove yourself from whatever allergen caused the flare up.

Important Note About Pink Eye

As of March 23, 2020, there is new evidence that suggests a correlation between pink eye and COVID-19.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, several reports suggest that COVID-19 can cause conjunctivitis (pink eye), and can be spread in the same way.

If you are experiencing symptoms of pink eye as well as a fever or cough, please consult your doctor immediately.

It’s also important to be aware of the fact that pink eye can be a symptom of measles among unvaccinated children. If your child is experiencing symptoms of pink eye, check and see whether or not there has been a measles outbreak in your area. Other symptoms that tend to accompany measles-induced pink eye are a fever, a red, blotchy rash, and light sensitivity.

If you think your child may have measles-induced pink eye, please contact your eye doctor right away, as this type of pink eye can lead to permanent damage.

Uncertain whether or not you may have pink eye? Schedule a virtual appointment with us by calling 541-779-4711.

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