How to Avoid and Treat Pink Eye

Pink eye can be caused by a number of different external factors

Conjunctivitis is an infection of the eye that causes it to become itchy and pink in color. For this reason, it is informally known as “pink eye”. Pink eye can be caused by a number of different external factors including allergens, in which case it is non-contagious, or through bacteria or viruses that render it contagious. It can be spread through saliva or mucus and also on surfaces and cloth. A pink eye can be traced back to several causes that may be severe, so always seek a doctor’s advice before the symptoms worsen.

Why Do the Eyes Turn Pink?

The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane that covers the white area of the eye as well as the inner eyelids. When it is irritated or infected it becomes inflamed. The extra blood flow to this area makes it appear pink in color.

Causes and Symptoms

Apart from the eye turning pink, it is also common for it to feel itchy when infected. Depending on the symptoms, it may be possible to narrow down the approximate cause of the irritation.

  • Allergens: External allergens can cause eyes to become itchy and teary. Quite often, this is accompanied by a leaky or itchy nose, sneezing or itchy patches on skin.
  • Bacteria: When bacteria enters the eye, it usually affects both at once. They eyes would emit a greenish discharge and display some crusting on the outside. Very often, it can be caused by staph or strep, or Haemophilus influenza in children.
  • Virus: A viral infection tends to affect just one eye and causes much tearing and some discharge. In some cases, there may be a crust on the outside of the eyes.

When visiting the doctor, make sure to let them know all of the symptoms, including any that may have ceased. The doctor should also be notified of other friends or family who might have similar symptoms. To analyze and determine the exact root of the infection, the doctor will perform an examination of the eyes and take a sample of the infection. Most often, they will suggest antibiotic medication for the eyes.

Who Can Contract Pink Eye?

Newly born infants are very susceptible to pink eye during the birthing merely by making contact with the mother. Alternatively, it can also be passed on to them if the mother is infected with an STD or if the child contracts a bacterial infection. Pink eye in newborns can damage their vision but this is usually preempted with an ointment to kill any infection.

While adults can contract pink eye, it is more often seen in youngsters especially through increased casual contact with peers at schools or nurseries. People who use contact lenses may also have symptoms of pink eye primarily due to a lack of hygiene regarding the case or cleaning solution or insertion and removal of the lenses. In adults, pink eye can be a symptom of an underlying STD or other serious disease. When pink eye is indicative of a more severe bodily infection, curing the pink eye symptoms alone are not enough. For this reason, it is vital to always consult a doctor upon noticing these symptoms as opposed to trying to cure it at home.

Does Pink Eye Affect Vision?

Apart from pink eye in newborns, the symptoms in older patients are rarely a serious threat to their vision if treatment is administered in time. If no treatment is given, then the eye can become scarred and end up damaged with partial or full blindness. Extremely severe untreated cases where the infection enters inside the eye may call for a complete removal of the eyeball.

Treatments for Pink Eye

When pink eye is caused by allergens, it can easily be treated by using anti-allergy medication along with moisturizing or anti-inflammatory eye drops. In case of air-borne allergens such as pollen or animal dander, pink eye can also be reduced by removing the person from the area and having them shower or wash their face. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotic medications, while viral infections can dissipate of their own accord with some time. Regardless of the cause, a warm pad and moisturizing drops can help to offer some relief to the affected eyes.

How Can Pink Eye be Avoided?

Since bacteria and virus often travel through the air or through shared items, make sure that each person in the household has their own towels, face cloths, and pillowcases. Items such as eye makeup, drops or contact lens cases should never be shared. After an infection, discard these items and purchase new ones.

Allergens in the home can also be minimized by maintaining a clean environment and vacuuming often. An air filter is very helpful in removing dust and other particles from the air. In the spring and summer, close the windows to reduce the amount of pollen entering the house.

There are several steps that can be taken outside of the home too. Children and adults should wear swimming goggles whether in the pool, lake or ocean. People who wear contact lenses should avoid doing so if their eyes are infected. When swimming or bathing, remove contact lenses to avoid infection. Goggles and underwater masks with prescribed lenses are readily available and offer an excellent alternative to those who normally rely on contact lenses. If a child has pink eye, keep them at home until it clears, to avoid spreading it to others in the classroom.

How Can Kids Prevent Pink Eye?

Kids can easily prevent themselves from getting pink eye too! Did you know that one of the easiest ways to get it is by sharing tissues or towels? Rubbing your eyes with dirty hands is another easy way to spread germs to the eyes. After playing outdoors or playing with pets, kids should wash their hands with soap and water to stay clean.

Pink eye can even be spread to others by coughing or sneezing. When you sneeze, little droplets of saliva are sprayed into the air. Each of these droplets contains germs and it is easy for other people to breathe it in. To prevent this, always cover your mouth and nose and make sure to wash up afterwards. Anti-bacterial hand gel or clean wipes are another great way to keep hands and surfaces clean.

Additional Resources

  • An Overview of Pink Eye: This article provides a thorough list of possible symptoms and how to differentiate it from red eye.
  • All About Pink Eye: A comprehensive series of resources, links and photographic explanations about pink eye.
  • Pink Eye Causes, Diagnoses & Treatments: This in-depth article offers valuable information on how to diagnose pink eye and how it can be treated.
  • Diagnosing Pink Eye: A very thorough guide to pink eye with photos and diagrams to illustrate what the symptoms look like.
  • Pink Eye in Newborns and Children: Further information for parents on how pink eye affects infants and young children.
  • Causes & Symptoms: A full examination of the causes and symptoms related to pink eye.
  • Viral versus Bacterial Pink Eye: This handout explains the differences in causes and symptoms of viral and bacterial triggers of pink eye.
  • Treating Pink Eye: Learn how to treat pink eye and when it might be time to consult a doctor.
  • Pink Eye in Kids: A quick guide for parents with an explanation of how their children might have contracted pink eye and what to do to treat it.
  • Pink Eye in the Classroom: Parents can learn about what to do when kids start passing on pink eye in the classroom.
  • Pink Eye Without Discharge: When children display symptoms of pink eye without any major discharge, this guide is helpful for its tips on how to proceed.
  • Pink Eye Myths: An article on separating fact from fiction when it comes to dealing with pink eye.
  • Pink Eye and Allergies: Read how common allergens can cause irritated eyes and how to treat them.
  • Prevent the Spread of Pink Eye: In this video, families can learn how to prevent pink eye at home.
  • Sleeping with Contact Lenses: Sleeping with contact lenses still in the eyes is an easy way to increase bacteria growth and the risk of pink eye.
  • Pink Eye and Contact Lenses: Read about what to do if pink eye develops in someone who wears contact lenses.
  • Antibiotics for Pink Eye: This article provides an overview of pink eye and then lists some of the most common antibiotic drops and ointments prescribed by doctors to treat the infected eyes.
  • Survival Guide for Pink Eye: A helpful article to help patients get through non-serious cases of pink eye.

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