Can you recognize the symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye) when you see them?
The main ones are redness, itchiness, and either watery or thick discharge. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the clear outer layer of tissue that covers the surface of our eyes, as well as the insides of our eyelids. This condition, while fairly common, is easy to prevent and to treat. Let’s take a closer look at the different types and their causes.
Viral or Bacterial?
The two main forms of conjunctivitis are viral and bacterial, both of which are highly contagious, though they have slightly different symptoms and very different treatments.
Bacterial conjunctivitis involves a lot of thick yellow or green secretions. It usually starts in one eye, then spreads to the other within a few days, and it can spread to other people with direct contact. Prescribed antibiotics will typically clear it up quickly.
Viral conjunctivitis, on the other hand, comes with more watery discharge and lasts a week or two. Antibiotics won’t do anything against a virus, but warm compresses will help to relieve the swelling and irritation until the inflammation subsides. While it does go away on its own, this form is even more contagious than the bacterial version because it can spread through coughs and sneezes.
Allergies can also cause eye inflammation. A good way to manage this is with allergy medication or by avoiding the allergens responsible. Contacts-wearers may experience a form of pink eye called Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis, which affects the inside of the eyelid more than the surface of the eye. It could be an allergic reaction to the cleaning solution or it could mean you should be taking your contacts out or replacing them more often!
Exposure to harsh chemicals, pollution, and chlorine in swimming pools are other pink eye culprits. Flushing with cool, clean water for several minutes can help to get rid of the chemicals, but if symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
Preventing Pink Eye
Here are a few quick tips to follow to minimize your risks of getting pink eye, because it’s always better to prevent a health problem when possible:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
- Sneeze and cough into your armpit.
- Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes.
- NEVER share eye makeup, contacts, or contact solution.
- Follow the optometrist’s contact lens care instructions.
- Remove contacts before swimming.