- Vision & Eye Care
How Do You Get Pink Eye? Home Remedies & Treatment
Pink eye or, less colloquially, conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of the inside of the eyelid and/or the whites of the eyes. This inflammation causes redness and irritates the eyes, sometimes making it difficult to see. These membranes inflame for a few reasons, for example: bacterial infections, viruses, irritants, allergens etc.
How Do You Get Pink Eye?
So, how do you get pink eye? There are a number of reasons and all come with slightly different symptoms and treatments:
Allergic pink eye – there are many allergens that can cause pink eye such as pollen, dust and animal dander. These often cause the eye to swell, as well as causing itching and sometimes tearing of the eye membranes. This can be treated by laying a moist, cold flannel across the eyes or by using decongestant eye drops. You can also get medication prescribed by a doctor, but this is often not needed.
Irritant pink eye – any irritating substance entering the eyes can cause pink eye, the most common being smoke, smog, industrial pollutants and household cleaners. This can be relieved by washing the eyes with a lot of water, however, you should visit a doctor regardless as some irritants can be very damaging.
Viral pink eye - this is the most common cause. Adenoviruses are the viruses that cause the infection in most cases. Symptoms include watery discharge, cold-like symptoms and bright light being painful to look at and these symptoms last between one and two weeks. Antibiotics will not cure a viral infection and this type of infection is highly contagious. It is recommended you consult a doctor if you believe you have viral pink eye because viral pink eye can be caused by an infection of the cornea.
Bacterial pink eye – bacterial pink eye can be caused by many bacteria such as Staphylococci and Streptococci and many bacteria causing pink eye also cause other infections in the body. Symptoms include yellow/green discharge which accumulates during sleep sometimes causing your eyes to stick shut (use a moist, warm flannel to combat this), redness, swelling and sometimes mild pain in the eyes. It is recommended you visit a doctor if you believe you have bacterial pink eye; antibiotics can be prescribed to help your body’s immune system fight the infection and the doctor can check to see if it has spread to other areas.
Chlamydia pink eye – pink eye can also be caused by Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection. Although uncommon in North America and Europe, it is fairly common in Africa. This can be easily treated with erythromycin or tetracycline.
Home Remedies for Pink Eye
While you should always consult a doctor if you believe you have pink eye, home remedies can be effective at relieving symptoms. As previously mentioned, a damp flannel (warm in most cases) is very good for relief as well as over-the-counter eyedrops. To avoid further irritation, you should not wear contact lenses for as long as the pink eye symptoms last, nor should you use eye makeup or cosmetic products.
Preventing The Spread Of Pink Eye
Pink eye caused by infections is highly contagious. Direct contact with anybody while you have pink eye is likely to spread the infection, so avoid this if possible. Try to avoid touching your eyes while you have pink eye and be sure to wash your hands using antibacterial soap or alcohol gel if you do. If using eye drops, do not let the container touch the eye, as this can prolong the infection; for this reason you should also never share eyedrops with another person.