Pinkeye, also called conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of a membrane of the eye. This membrane, or conjunctiva, covers the white part of your eyeball. In your eye you have tiny blood vessels that usually are not easily seen, but when these blood vessels become inflamed or irritated, they are more easily visible. When they are more visible, the whites of your eye (the sclera) become pink or red, giving pinkeye its characteristic name.

What causes pinkeye?

Pinkeye can be caused by a number of different things, like viruses, bacteria, allergens, getting something in your eye, or a blocked tear duct. Viral conjunctivitis can be caused by a number of different types of viruses, and it often can be associated with a respiratory infection, cold, or a sore throat. Bacterial conjunctivitis also, can be caused by a number of different bacteria. Conjunctivitis related to allergens, is caused by things like pollen, weeds, dust, mold, dander, or from contact lenses. Allergic conjunctivitis happens more often in those who get other allergic conditions, like hay fever, asthma, or eczema.

How is pinkeye spread?

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are both very contagious. You can get pinkeye through direct contact with an infected person. It is so easily spread, that simply having touched the hand of someone infected, who had touched their eye, and then touching your own eye can spread the bacteria to your eye.

What are the signs & symptoms of pinkeye?

The telltale sign of pinkeye is the pink or red colour of the whites of the eyes.

Viral conjunctivitis produces a watery clear discharge, while bacterial conjunctivitis causes a thicker, yellowish, greenish discharge. Viral conjunctivitis is usually mild, lasting anywhere from 7 to 14 days. Bacterial conjunctivitis usually starts in one eye and then spreads to the other eye, and can last up to 2 to 3 weeks.

Allergic conjunctivitis happens in both eyes, and usually is more common in the times of the year that allergens are more present, like in the spring.

Other signs or symptoms that your child may have include:

  • Increased tearing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Feeling of burning in the eyes
  • In the morning there may be a crusting from the eye from the discharge expelled overnight
  • Light sensitivity
  • Enlarged lymph nodes around the ear (feels like a small bump)
  • Rarely, blurred vision or trouble seeing

How is pinkeye treated?

Depending on the cause of the pinkeye, the treatment differs.

Bacteria pinkeye can be treated with antibiotic drops or ointments. Viral conjunctivitis, like most viruses, cannot be treated with antibiotics, and clears up on its own. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated using antihistamine or anti-inflammatory medications.

Some things you can do to help relieve the symptoms of pinkeye include:

  • Washing your hands properly with soap and water, and using antibacterial hand sanitizers.
  • Do not share towels, face clothes, pillow cases or other facial products with anyone infected. And wash these items in hot water and detergent.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
  • Apply a cool or warm compress to the affected eye or eyes (make sure to use different cloth with each eye to prevent further spread).
  • Cleaning the eyes with a warm, towel or face cloth carefully. Make sure to use a different cloth or a different part of the cloth for the opposite eye to prevent spread of infection.
  • Artificial tear eye drops (be sure to check with your pharmacist, doctor or nurse practitioner if you are taking medications for allergic conjunctivitis to see if this is right for you).
  • If associated with contact lens, stop wearing them and switch to eye glasses.

If you think your child may have pinkeye, call to schedule an appointment with your doctor or nurse practitioner.

– Dr. Christina Cesareo and Dr. G Paul Dempsey

[Featured image: scribbletaylor]


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