Most people have heard of pink eye before—it’s practically a household term for any kind of eye irritation or infection.
Here at True Eye, our optometrists regularly help patients diagnose and treat pink eye infection. In this blog, they share what patients should know about pink eye, including the different types, treatment options, and prevention tips.
The eyeball and inside of the upper and lower eyelids are lined with a membrane called the conjunctiva. This membrane is the first line of defense against any type of surface infections. Pink eye is also called conjunctivitis—and “conjunctivitis” refers to some kind of infection, inflammation, or swelling that occurs in the conjunctiva membrane.
There are three different types of conjunctivitis: allergic, bacterial, and viral. None of these are pleasant, but optometrists can help treat them all. If you suspect you may have pink eye, we recommend that you call one of our locations for further assistance. We have specialized equipment that’s able to quickly rule out and diagnose what type of infection you have. It doesn’t hurt that it usually ends up costing less at our eye doctor’s office than with any general practitioner!
Allergic conjunctivitis is exactly what it sounds like: an inflammation of the conjunctiva triggered by an allergic reaction. This type of conjunctivitis is, thankfully, not contagious. Allergic pink eye is caused by an allergen (like pet dander, dust, smoke, or another irritant) getting into your eye.
The most common symptoms are weepy eyes, some itchiness, and general discomfort. Our most effective course of treatment for allergic conjunctivitis uses over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, depending on the severity of the case.
When most people think of “pink eye,” they’re probably thinking of bacterial conjunctivitis. After all, its telltale symptom of bloodshot eyes is where “pink eye” gets its name. This is a bacterial infection that usually stems from someone transferring bacteria by scratching or rubbing around the eye with unwashed hands. Wearing contact lenses too long and poor personal hygiene habits are also risk factors for bacterial conjunctivitis.
Bacterial conjunctivitis often causes discomfort in the form of pain, light sensitivity, and a crusty discharge from the eyes. It’s very contagious, so we recommend washing your hands with soap and water regularly and avoiding touching your eyes.
To treat bacterial infections, your optometrist can prescribe special eye drops, ointment, or antibiotics.
Viral conjunctivitis has many similar symptoms to bacterial pink eye. However, viral pink eye is caused by a virus and symptoms may appear faster than they would for a bacterial infection. You may get conjunctivitis if you have a respiratory or intestinal virus (or come into contact with someone who does) and the virus spreads to your eye.
Viral conjunctivitis may cause irritation, light sensitivity, or a watery discharge. It is highly contagious, therefore, it is essential that you keep your hands clean by washing with soap and water and avoid touching your eyes.
There are a few ways optometrists can treat viral infections—most commonly with a prescription course of steroidal drops or an antiviral medication.
As we outlined above, the best type of treatment for pink eye depends on the cause of your infection. If you’re struggling with severe discomfort or symptoms that aren’t getting better, an optometrist can help diagnose each type of pink eye and help you find an effective treatment option.
Patients in the Tampa Bay and Fort Myers areas can click here to schedule an appointment at their nearest True Eye location. In the meantime, follow these at-home tips to reduce discomfort and prevent the spread of conjunctivitis:
The most common pink eye symptoms are irritation, redness, and crusty discharge from the eye—but pink eye isn’t the only eye condition that can cause these. Some conditions have symptoms that closely mimic pink eye, including:
Your optometrist may suspect one of these conditions if treatment for conjunctivitis doesn’t clear up the discomfort, if you experience any symptoms that aren’t associated with pink eye, or if you’re at high risk for one of these conditions.
Regardless of what you might have, it’s always a good choice to talk with a doctor if you have any concerns about your eye health.
Bacterial or viral pink eye spreads from person to person. Most commonly, an infected person might touch their eye and then touch a shared object, which contaminates the object with germs.
When another person touches the contaminated object and then touches their eyes, the germs can cause pink eye. It’s possible to pass along germs by sharing pillows or towels, makeup or makeup tools, phones, and contact lenses.
Bacterial and viral pink eye are very contagious—so it’s possible to pass the infection along as long as you have symptoms. To avoid getting others sick, wash your hands regularly, don’t share personal hygiene products or cosmetics, and talk to a doctor if your symptoms don’t seem to clear up on their own.
Pink eye usually clears up on its own in about 1-2 weeks, though there are at-home remedies and other treatments that can help relieve symptoms.
However, you should go to a doctor if:
Your optometrist may be able to prescribe stronger medication to help fight an infection.
Doctors have learned that pink eye symptoms like redness and irritation can sometimes be a symptom of COVID-19. However, having conjunctivitis doesn’t automatically mean you have COVID-19.
If you’re having other symptoms of COVID-19, like a fever or shortness of breath, call your doctor right away and wear a mask when you’re around others.
Dr. Robert Prado attended Southern College of Optometry where he earned his Doctorate of Optometry degree. He has been honored for the past 30 years to help thousands of patients who have been impacted by eye disease or are looking to correct or enhance their vision. He has worked in various office settings throughout the years which have given him a unique perspective in managing and caring for your eyes. His passion for outreach has led him to participate in different mission trips, including living overseas for three and a half years to serve the people of Guam. In his spare time he enjoys traveling and discovering new and exciting places, spending summer days camping with his family, hiking, kayaking, and biking. He also enjoys growing tomatoes. He is currently the optometrist for True Eye Experts located in Apopka, Florida. He would love to provide you with an exceptional comprehensive eye exam today. Please contact our office via email at [email protected] or by phone at (407) 862-2020 to schedule your appointment today. He is looking forward to SEEing you soon!
Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): Symptoms, Treatment & More
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