- Vision & Eye Care
What You Need to Know About Pink Eye
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Pink eye is a common condition (I call it affliction)—most of us have at least one episode of pink eye. Children are more susceptible but it is by no means age-related. When the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane covering the eyelid or the white of the eye becomes inflamed, it becomes pink or red, hence the other name—conjunctivitis. It may affect one eye or both. You know it by the way it looks and the way it feels. The white of the eye appears to be invaded by pink or red spidery webs and there is a general sense of discomfort. Light sensitivity may set in.
Since this hub concerns the eye, I’m going to let the pictures do all the talking. After all, it’s all in the eyes.
What you see below is a healthy eye. But when you’ve conjunctivitis, the white of the eye turns pink, the most tell-tale sign.. Eye-lids may be swollen. Although, your eyes may be pink or red due to the lack of sleep or too much alcohol, pink eye usually takes 3 to 7 days for the symptoms to subside.
The perfect picture of a healthy eye.
The eyes tear …and no it’s not because of the sad movie. The eyes become runny and sometimes, it turns crusty in the morning. Little kids may panic because they can’t open their eyes when they wake up. It may itch and you may get that “foreign-body” feeling, like you have sands or grit under the eyes.
Pink eye is not a serious medical condition unless it is due to some underlying medical conditions. In most cases, it will go away with some medical attention. There are different causes of pink eye and knowing the root cause may help determine the best way to treat pink eyes.
Causes of Pink Eye:
- Chemical Exposure
- Dry Eyes
- Certain diseases
- Contact lenses (especially extended-wear contact lenses)
- Chlamydia (caused by bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, most commonly sexually transmitted). In some cases, pink eye may be one of the symptoms.
Types of Pink Eyes
Not all cases of pink eye are contagious. Bacterial and viral pink eye are highly contagious. Noninfectious pink eye includes pink eye caused by allergy, chemicals, underlying inflammatory diseases or trauma. How can you tell one from another? Below are some common forms of pink eye and their characteristic symptoms.
It is the most common form of pink eye and is usually caused by Staphylococci or Streptococci bacteria from your skin or respiratory system. Poor hygiene such as touching the eyes with unclean hands, physical contact with people or the use of contaminated makeup or facial products may also cause bacterial conjunctivitis.
- Symptoms may include eye pain, swelling, redness, itching.
- Moderate to large amount of discharge, usually yellow or greenish. May accumulate after sleeping and form crust over eyes.
- Discharge may be removed by warm washcloth.
- swelling of lymph notes in front of ears.
- Requires antibiotic eyedrops or ointment prescribed by doctor.
Pink Eye? Red Eye? What’s the Difference?
Do you have pink or red eyes? Pink eye is related to the inflammation of the conjunctiva and may cause red eye. On the other hand, red eye is a broader term that includes redness on and around the eyes. Any number of reasons can cause red eye including foreign body in the eye, scrapes, sores or any injury to the eye, glaucoma or infection of the eye socket or areas around the eyes. Styes or inflamed eyelids or the lack of tears may also cause the eye to appear red.
Caused primarily by contagious viruses associated with the common cold, viral pink eye is often contracted through exposure to coughing or sneezing. The virus may also travel along the body’s own mucous system connecting the lungs, nose, tear ducts and conjunctiva.
- Most common in late fall or early spring
- Watery discharge, often clear
- Eyelids may be swollen and red
- Cannot be treated with antibiotics
- Symptoms most pronounced during the first three to five days. It will usually go away on its own.
If your eyes are sensitive to pollens, animal dander or dust, allergic conjunctivitis may develop as your body releases histamines to fight the allergens. This form of pink eye has symptoms most similar to the typical allergy condition and will go away once it is treated with antihistamines or when the allergen is removed.
- Intense itching, tearing and swelling of eye membrane.
- Sneezing and scratchy throat
- Cold, moist washcloth or artificial tears may be applied to eyes to provide relief
- Doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines.
- In severe persistent cases, doctor may prescribe topical steroid eye drops.
Condition is often caused by exposure to chemicals such as household cleaners, spray, smoke, smog, industrial pollutants or foreign objects in the eyes.
- Promptly wash off irritants or contaminants by carefully flushing the eyes with water.
- Contact health professional immediately, especially if chemicals are toxic or noxious.
- May require topical steroids.
Swimming in contaminated pool may cause pink eye.
Pink Eye Caused by Underlying Diseases
In some cases, pink eye may be a manifestation of some underlying diseases:
- Most cases involve rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoild arthritis, systematic lupus or erythematosus.
- Also seen in Kawasaki's disease
- Certain inflammatory bowel dieases
Home Remedies for Conjunctivitis
Many people have found relief using some of these remedies suggested by Mayo clinic. However, these home remedies are not meant to substitute seeking help from health professionals.
Warm compress is best used for soothing bacterial and viral conjuctivitis whereas cold compress should be used for allergic conjunctivitis.
Over-the-counter eyedrops or artificial tears may alleviate symptoms. If you've allergic conjunctivits, look for eyedrops with antihistamines.
- Contact Lens Wear
Lay off wearing contact lenses until eyes feel better. If you use disposable contact lenses, discard contaminated lenses. If you've have non-disposable lenses, clean them thoroughly before reusing them again.
What Should You Do?
Infectious forms of conjunctivitis (bacterial and viral) are highly contagious. If you’ve bacterial conjunctivitis, avoid contact with people until you’ve used antibiotics for 24 hours. Children may return to school after they had 24 hours of antibiotics. This applies to adults as well. Viral conjunctivitis will run its course and may take 10 days to a month to completely go away. Cold compresses and artificial tears may bring relief.
In cases where you experience severe eye pain or the symptoms persist even after medication or your eyes are sensitive to light after the redness is gone, call the health care provider.
Stop the Spread of Conjunctivitis
Since contagious pink eye is often spread through physical contact, it is advisable to take measures to contain the spread. If only one of your eyes is infected, such measures will help to prevent the spread to the other eye. Taking these precaution will help to stop the spread to people in your household or workplace. Children are particularly prone to contact pink eyes through their interaction in schools with friends, contaminated objects or surfaces. Teaching them personal hygiene is one way to reduce risks. They may need help to implement some of these measures.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Keep hands away from eyes (for obvious reasons)
- Do not share towels or personal items.
- Use fresh pillowcases each night during the duration of the infection to prevent re-infecting your eyes.
- Discard contaminated eye-makeup. In general, it is best to renew eye make-up every three months.
- Lay off wearing contact lenses until the infection is gone.
- Disinfect surfaces you come constantly in touch with: doorknobs, countertops, sinks. Where kids are involved, disinfect play areas and toys
Conclusion: Contagious pink eye is generally not a serious medical condition. With some medical help and clean hygiene, it will go away. If symptoms persist, see a health professional for sure.
What is the most annoying thing about having pink eye?
My Pink Eye Experience
I used to live on the edge of the jungle in Singapore, a trove of foliage and paradise for the insects of all kinds. Inevitably, I would run into spidery web as I make my way around. Don’t ask me why I was so dumb to walk into them. Perhaps they blend so well with the environment. Perhaps I was running away from my annoying brothers. You know how they can be. In any case, I would run smack into them—the hammock of silvery strands would collapse on my face like Saran wrap.
I knew what spider webs do to my eyes. Pink eyes! My eyes would be runny and pink and as I recall, they would assume the appearance of the bloodshot eye Halloween candy—all red and swollen and totally disgusting. I’ve it before and the time before but why didn’t I learn…go figure..I was little and so was brain.
My mother was a big believer of home remedies. She would sit me beside her and borrow a cigarette from my dad. She was not a smoker but she would smoke whenever the occasion calls for it…such as this one. Prying my eyelids often, she would blow puffs of cigarette smoke into my eyes. I would squirm and whine but as all mothers are wont to say when handling an uncooperative child, “Child, you’ll thank me later.”
I don’t know what the cigarette smoke did but all I can say is it worked like magic. The next day, the pink would disappear…..just like that. It worked each and every time. I still can’t explain why or how but it totally did the job.
This little account is not meant to endorse cigarette smoking but to show how home remedies can get all weird and real at the same time.