While pink eye is not, by itself, serious, it can be… well, to use the medical term… yucky. You may notice:
- Itchy eyes
- Excessive tears
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
- Thick discharge (it may even be difficult to open your eye)
What causes this? Pink eye occurs when the conjunctiva (i.e. the clear tissue that covers the insides of your eyelids and the white part of the eye) becomes inflamed. This can happen when you come into contact with allergens, shampoo, and chlorine or are exposed to viruses and bacteria. This is why children get it fairly commonly: they are around other children, and they’re not always conscientious about washing their hands or covering their sneezes and coughs!
Pink eye caused by allergies can be relieved with an allergy medication and is not contagious. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, on the other hand, are highly contagious. Let’s take a closer look at these:
Viral: Just like the common cold, viral pink eye can spread quite easily. It is the most common type of conjunctivitis, and you’ll typically notice itchiness first. You may also deal with a watery discharge and sensitivity to light.
It typically resolves itself within a week or two. Remember, you cannot treat viruses with antibiotics. If the condition persists longer than two weeks, see your doctor. He or she may prescribe an antiviral.
Bacterial: The big difference in terms of symptoms here is that the discharge from your eye is much thicker. It may also appear yellowish or greenish. After sleep, you may have difficulty opening your eye(s). Bacterial pink eye usually improves within two to five days but can last up to two weeks. Antibiotics can help it clear up much faster. If you have a weakened immune system or heavy discharge (pus), it is especially important that you see your doctor.
Treating Pink Eye
You can take steps to relieve symptoms and ensure pink eye does not spread:
- If you have swelling and/or discharge, apply a warm compress.
- Do not touch your eyes. We know it’s hard, but it’ll help keep you from irritating them and introducing new germs.
- If you wear contacts, use your glasses until the infection has cleared up. After, switch to new lenses.
- Wash your hands frequently.
Do I Really Need to Go to the Doctor?
If your infection does not clear up, your symptoms get worse, or you experience flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, shaking, impaired vision), give us a call. We will see what’s going on and help you get your eyes back to normal!
Pink eye is common and not typically serious. However, it is always important to let your eye care professional know if you are experiencing symptoms so we can put you on the right path for treatment.