Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention

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Conjunctivitis is a common eye condition. However, allergic conjunctivitis can be seasonal. Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye is an infection of the eye's conjunctiva that is caused by a bacteria or a virus.

This infection causes redness, pain, and itchiness. In other words, pink eye is an inflammation of the white part of the eye and the inner eyelids. It's a minor infection and although it might look bad, usually isn't serious. It can affect one eye at first, but usually affects both eyes after a few hours.

What causes pink eye

To understand the viral and bacterial causes of pink eye, we need to know that there are 3 kinds of this infection with 3 main causes:

Allergic Conjunctivitis

This occur when someone was exposed to a substance that triggers an allergic reaction into their eyes. One type of allergic conjunctivitis is Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis. This type of pink eye could develop when a foreign presence entered the eyes like contact lenses.

Infectious Conjunctivitis

An infection most often caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria from your own skin or respiratory system is the Bacterial conjunctivitis. For instance, what causes this can be from touching the eyes with unclean hands and sharing of makeup and wearing contact lenses that are not your own.

The most commonly caused by contagious viruses associated with the common cold is the Viral Conjunctivitis. Since the tears drain into the nasal passageway, forceful nose blowing can cause a virus to move from your respiratory system to your eyes.

Chemical Conjunctivitis

Irritants like air pollution and chlorine in swimming pools can cause Chemical Conjunctivitis.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

  • Pink or red color in the white of the eye/s
  • Swelling of the eyelid/s
  • Increased tear production
  • Itching, irritation, and/or burning
  • Discharge from the eye/s

Depending on the cause, other symptoms may occur.

Complications of Pink Eye

Complications may occur if there are other conditions contributing to it. Pink eye caused by an STI (Sexually transmitted infection) can persist for months instead of weeks. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia in the eye can potentially lead to loss of vision if left untreated. 

Pink eye in premature or newborn babies should be taken seriously. It can lead to a more progressive and serious eye infection. Without treatment it can lead to permanent loss of the child’s vision. This will require a specialized eye doctor to provide treatment and monitor the child’s condition. Most children are able to recover without incident and additional complications are rare. 

Pink eye infections may cause a condition called keratitis. This is a swollen cornea (the front part of the eye). It may lead to ulcers that can cause permanent blindness. Symptoms of keratitis include eye pain and sensitivity to light.

Pink Eye Prevention and Treatments

The symptoms often clear up within a couple of weeks, that is why treatment isn’t usually needed. However, if it is deemed necessary, the recommended treatment for pink eye depends on what caused it. Usually over the counter eye drops, ointment or a home remedy should manage an uncomplicated pink eye. Stop wearing contact lenses if you have pink eye symptoms.

Preventing pink eye from occurring is the key. You can prevent pink eye from occurring by not touching your eyes and washing our hands regularly. In addition to good hygiene, you should not share contact lenses or cosmetics. Pink eye is highly contagious

When To See A Doctor

Pink eye is usually mild and it does not necessitate immediate medical attention. If you notice the following symptoms your pink eye may actually be something more serious. Serious eye problems can lead to permanent blindness Talk to your doctor if you have the following:

  • Symptoms that persist or become worse after 24 hours of treatment.
  • Eye pain
  • Sensitivity or pain when exposed to light. Any discharge should be removed from the eye to determine this. 
  • If you have a weakened immune system due to cancer treatment, HIV infections or due to any other conditions or treatments.
  • Intense redness in your eye

While pink eye is usually manageable, complications or more serious conditions may make the infection worse. Always seek immediate medical attention if you have difficulty seeing or experiencing troubling pain. It is very contagious so take caution when interacting with others and take time off work if you are unwell.

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