In the past month, I noted several people I know in the Milwaukee and Waukesha area experiencing a case of pink eye. While I experienced this as a child, the friends in question are now experiencing it as adults. What exactly is pink eye ?
Pink, itchy eyes? Conjunctivitis – or pink eye – is common in adults and children. It spreads quickly and sometimes needs medical treatment, depending on the cause. Know the symptoms, get treatment if needed, and prevent its spread.Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is one of the most common and treatable eye conditions in children and adults. It is an inflammation of the thin, clear lining of the white of the eye and inner eyelid, giving the eye a pink or reddish color.
What Causes Conjunctivitis?
Pink eye results from viruses, bacteria, irritants (like smog or swimming pool chlorine), and allergens (like pet dander or dust mites) either infecting or irritating the eye and eyelid lining. Pink eye caused by viruses or bacteria spreads easily from person to person but is usually mild and generally gets better on its own, even without treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Conjunctivitis?
Depending on the cause, pink eye symptoms vary but usually include the following:
- Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
- Increased amount of tears
- White, yellow or green eye discharge
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Gritty feeling in the eye
How Is Conjunctivitis Treated?
The treatment for pink eye depends on the cause. It is not always necessary to see a healthcare provider for pink eye since it will often get better on its own. But, there are times when it is important to seek medical care and get an antibiotic or other medical treatment.
How Do I Stop Pink Eye from Spreading?
Pink eye from irritants or allergens is not contagious, but a secondary infection by viruses or bacteria is possible. Using preventive measures, like hand washing, is a good way to help stop the possible spread of pink eye.
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are very contagious and spread rapidly and easily. By following some simple self-care steps, you can reduce the risk of getting or spreading pink eye:
- Clean hands often with warm water and soap. If soap and water aren’t available, using an alcohol-based hand rub is a good option.
- Avoid sharing towels, blankets and pillowcases.
- Wash towels, sheets, and pillowcases in hot water and detergent.
- Remove any discharge from around the eyes several times a day with a clean washcloth or tissue.
- Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after cleansing the eyes.
- Wash your hands right away if you have treated your own or someone else’s infected eye(s).
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. Clean eyeglasses and contact lens cases often.
- Remember to use fresh solution when storing your contact lenses; never let anyone else use or handle your contact lenses.
- Don’t share eye make-up, face make-up or make-up brushes.
- Don’t share drinking glasses, eyeglasses or personal hygiene items.
- Keep your child home from school, day care or camp if he or she has a fever along with viral or bacterial pink eye or if he or she has bacterial conjunctivitis and hasn’t started antibiotic treatment.
- Treating with antibiotics can help reduce the spread of some cases of bacterial conjunctivitis.
When Should I Call a Healthcare Provider?
See your healthcare provider if
- Conjunctivitis is causing moderate to severe pain in your eye(s)
- Conjunctivitis is causing blurred vision or increased sensitivity to light
- Conjunctivitis occurs in someone who has a weakened immune system, for example, someone with HIV or who is receiving chemotherapy
- Bacterial conjunctivitis does not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use
- Symptoms persist or get worse
Conjunctivitis in Newborns
There are several causes of and treatments for the condition called neonatal conjunctivitis. Sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause pink eye in newborns. If you are pregnant and think you may have a sexually transmitted infection, visit your healthcare provider for testing and treatment. If you don’t know if you have a sexually transmitted infection but have recently given birth and your newborn shows signs of pink eye, visit your child’s healthcare provider right away.Most hospitals are required by state law to put drops or ointment in a newborn’s eyes to prevent conjunctivitis.