Pink eye is one of the most annoying and common eyes health issues. Technically known as conjunctivitis, it can affect one or both eyes. Typical symptoms include:
- Red eyes
- Swollen or inflamed eyes
- Sticky discharge
- The feeling that something is stuck in the eyelids
There are three main causes of pink eye. Some are contagious, while others are environmental. This includes viral conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis, and allergic conjunctivitis.
Typical symptoms of viral conjunctivitis include red, inflamed eyes as well as watery discharge. It sometimes occurs with other cold or flu-like symptoms like a sore throat or runny nose. Since it is viral this form of pink eye is very contagious and can be passed from person to person. It tends to occur more frequently in schools and other crowded places.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is also another contagious form of pink eye. Typical symptoms include inflammation in one or both eyes as well as excess mucus production which can gradually escalate into sticky pus. Bacterial conjunctivitis can also occur in conjunction with strep throat.
How Is Viral & Bacterial Conjunctivitis Spread?
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are contagious and known to spread easily. Especially in crowded places like schools and small office spaces. They are most often transmitted via direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
For example, a person with contagious conjunctivitis might rub their eyes in response to the discomfort and irritation. This transfers the pathogen to the hand. If they were then to shake your hand or touch an object you touch, and you rub your own eye it could pass the bacteria or virus to your eye. This is also a risk for things like nasal or sinus secretions from someone blowing their nose and not washing their hands immediately afterward.
Poor contact lens care can also lead to an increased risk of suffering from bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. This includes things like poorly fitting contact lenses as well as decorative contact lenses that promote excess touching of the eyes.
Children are typically at increased risk of bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, as they often have poor personal hygiene practices, such as forgetting to wash their hands.
Can You Treat Viral Conjunctivitis?
Viral conjunctivitis is linked to an active virus and there is no direct way to treat the eyes. Your body’s own immune system has to fight the infection. Though there are certainly some things you can do to help minimize the symptoms or boot your immune system.
This includes things like:
- Using a warm compress
- Using a cold compress
- Eyedrops to help keep eyes moist
- Avoid rubbing the eyes
How To Treat Bacterial Conjunctivitis?
Many times, bacterial conjunctivitis is a secondary infection of another condition like a sinus infection, strep throat, or a similar bacterial infection that infiltrates the eyes. Though there are also cases of bacterial pink eye that are linked to direct infection of the eyes, eyelids, or the surrounding membranes.
In some of these cases, a prescription antibiotic might help clear up the underlying bacterial infection or speed the recovery process. Your eye doctor might also provide you with prescription eyedrops. Using them along with other symptom mitigating measures like a hot or cold compress may also help lessen discomfort.
How Long Does It Take For Pink Eye To Go Away?
Bacterial and viral pink eye typically clears up on its own in one to two weeks. If you are still having significant symptoms after two weeks, then it could be a sign of a more serious eye infection.
Allergic conjunctivitis is typically related to an environmental source. Usually, it’s the eyes reacting to some type of persistent allergen in the air or contact from the hands to the eyes. Common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include inflammation, as well as eyes that feel very itchy, red, and watery. Many people suffering from allergic conjunctivitis also complain about eyelids that feel inflamed and puffy.
What Are Common Causes Of Allergic Conjunctivitis?
As the name implies allergens are a primary cause of the irritation associated with allergic conjunctivitis. Though it could also be linked to a persistent airborne irritant such as:
- Cigarette smoke
- Automotive exhaust fumes
- Chlorine in pool water
- Animal Dander
- Toxic Airborne Fumes
How To Treat Allergic Conjunctivitis?
Pink eye caused by allergens or airborne pollutants can be a little more challenging to deal with, as you need to address the environmental cause before your symptoms improve. In the case of pollen or another naturally occurring allergen, you may need to wait out the seasonal change. In the case of a toxin or air pollution, you may need to use air filters in your home or office, or make a change in your environment.
Though you can still do things like applying warm or cold compresses to help reduce your symptoms. Your eye doctor might also recommend eye drops to help reduce itchiness, inflammation, and swollen eyelids.
How To Stop Pink Eye From Spreading?
Both viral and bacterial pink eye can be very contagious. If you have conjunctivitis or you share space with a friend, coworkers, or family member with pink eye, there are steps you should take to keep it from spreading. This includes things like:
Always using a clean towel or tissue anytime you wipe your face or eyes.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Wash your hands before and after eating or going to the bathroom.
- Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing
- Using hand sanitizer when you can’t immediately wash your hands before touching a communal surface or shake someone’s hand.
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
- If you do rub or touch your eyes make sure to wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Try not to touch your eyes. If you do, wash your hands right away.
- Avoid using eye makeup or sharing eye makeup when dealing with a bacterial case of pink eye, as the bacterial can live in makeup, and lead to a serious eye infection.
- Properly clean and maintain your contact lenses. Contact your eye doctor if you are having a problem with your contact lenses. Sometimes pink eye inflammation can cause swelling and irritation that makes it difficult to use contact lenses.