Conjunctivitis, also known as “sore eyes” or “pink eye” is perhaps one of the most common illnesses around—it is also easy to spread if you’re not careful. Keep in mind that conjunctivitis is treatable and in most cases, you wouldn’t need to spend on a doctor’s appointment if you are informed of the basics.
What is conjunctivitis?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), “Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. This inflammation makes blood vessels more visible and gives the eye a pink or reddish color.” It is common in children and adults and is caused by viruses, bacteria, allergens, and other irritants (swimming pool chlorine).
How does it spread?
As mentioned, the virus can easily spread if you do not practice good hygiene. Always wash your hands and avoid rubbing your eyes at all costs. Contamination starts with sharing your makeup, eyeglasses, and even contact lens containers. Do not share your face towels if you have sore eyes and don’t use an infected person’s items as well. Sore eyes caused by irritants isn’t considered contagious, but can develop a secondary infection caused by communicable viruses and bacteria.
While there are many possible causes of conjunctivitis, the usual manifestations may include:
- Redness or swelling of the white area of the eye
- Excessive production of tears
- Gritty sensation in the eye
- Crusting around the eyelids/eyelashes
- Yellow/white/green eye discharge
- Inability to keep contact lenses in place
- Your eyelids stick together because of the discharge; this is most evident in the morning when you wake up
When do you need to see a doctor?
If you experience the following symptoms it is highly recommended that you see your doctor:
- Pain in the eyes
- Intense redness in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
- Continued manifestation (beyond 24 hours) of symptoms even after administering prescribed medication
If you suspect that your newborn child has conjunctivitis, take him/her to a medical professional immediately.
Types of conjunctivitis
- Viral – mostly mild cases, usually take 7-14 days to heal without treatment. Taking antibiotics will have no effect on this kind of conjunctivitis.
- Bacterial – your doctor may prescribe antibiotics which is usually in the form of eye drops or ointments.
- Allergic – caused by an allergen like animal dander. Allergy medication and antihistamine eye drops may be prescribed.
Conjunctivitis is easily treated with eye drops like artificial tears and applying a cold compress to help ease the inflammation. Transmission occurs when you have poor hand hygiene. Always remember to wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough/sneeze, and disinfect your area to prevent contamination. The American Academy of Ophthalmology
also recommends the following:
- Change pillowcases and sheets every day.
- Use a fresh towel every day.
- Wash your hands often, especially after you touch your eyes.
- Don’t wear your contact lenses until your eyes are back to normal.