Itchy, ugly and highly contagious, Pink Eye is a common eye condition that causes great discomfort and irritation. Over 90% of adults have been exposed to this temporary ailment – also known by its proper medical name, Conjunctivitis - which is either contracted from person to person or through exposure to certain allergens, viruses and bacteria. Pink Eye can also be obtained through the improper care of contact lenses. All three strains of conjunctivitis produce dissimilar symptoms, and the treatment of each should come by recommendation of your physician or eye doctor, who can help you determine the cause of pink eye by taking a sample of tears or secretion for testing.
Patients who suffer allergic conjunctivitis often experience symptoms in both eyes, in addition to a runny or stuffy nose. If your case of pink eye is caused by allergies, this type of conjunctivitis is not transmitted to others.
The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis can normally be treated at home with allergy medicines. Cold compresses may also relieve discomfort. Over the counter antihistamine eye drops may also help to reduce swelling in your eyes.
Contact Lens–Induced Papillary Conjunctivitis (CLPC)
A less common complication of conjunctivitis that contact lens wearers can experience is known as Giant Induced Papillary Conjunctivitis. This condition falls under the allergic type of pink eye and is caused from an allergy to contact lenses of all types. The most effective deterrent to induced papillary conjunctivitis is the routine cleaning and maintenance of your contact lenses. Eye doctors may prescribe a topical steroid to treat this condition; as CLPC can eventually lead to corneal ulcers and other complications, a trip to the doctor’s is highly recommended.
Viral pink eye is the most common form of conjunctivitis and, like a cold, will clear up on its own without a prescription. School-age children suffering from a case of viral pink eye should wait 3 to 5 days at home for symptoms to clear up before returning to their classroom. Most of the time, viral conjunctivitis is spread like other viruses, where coughing, sneezing or touching surfaces with the live viral germ will cause transfer of viral pink eye from one person to another.
Eye discharge caused by viral pink eye normally runs clear. However, in some cases white or light yellow eye mucus can be present. Viral conjunctivitis is caused by the same viral germs as a common cold or the herpes simplex virus. When the pink eye virus is present, it causes inflammation of the “white” of the eye (sclera) and the inner eyelid surface. Besides itching madly, pink eye sometimes is associated with white, yellow or green eye discharge that forms into an eyelash crust. In a more progressed stage of pink eye, patients can experience eyelid crusting that temporarily seals the eye lid shut. There are a number of things you can do at home to ease the discomfort of viral conjunctivitis while waiting for symptoms to dissipate.
- Hot or Cold Compresses. Do not use the same compress on each eye. This could potentially lead to spreading pink eye from one eye to another.
- Wiping the corner of the eye to remove discharge with soft Q-tip. Dispose of Q-Tip after one use.
- Irrigate eyes with an antihistamine tear drop. These can be purchased over the counter.
- Wash hands to prevent spreading conjunctivitis.
- Change pillow cases often.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes.
- Keep counters, night stands, and bathroom and kitchen surfaces clean with an anti-bacterial cleaner.
- Discard old eye make-up. Expired mascara or eye shadow brushes can lead to reinfection of the eye; for more tips on using cosmetics healthily, click here.
- Do not wear your contact lenses while suffering conjunctivitis. Throw away old eye solution.
Viral conjunctivitis will run its course in one to three weeks’ time. However, if your doctor believes your pink eye might be caused by the herpes simplex virus due to low immunity, he or she may prescribe an anti-viral medication.
Patients that experience thicker or pus-like eye discharge may be suffering bacterial conjunctivitis. Eye discharge from bacterial conjunctivitis appears as a heavy mucous, and is more likely to be green or grayish in color. If pink eye is caused by a bacterial infection, a warm compress may help to reduce swelling and redness.
The sticky mucus caused by bacteria in the eye is extremely contagious and can cause serious damage to eyes if left untreated. Patients who suspect they may have this condition should see their doctor right away. Antibiotics are normally prescribed for bacterial pink eye. School age children who suffer from a case of bacterial pink eye can usually attend school 24 hours after being treated with antibiotics.
In most cases, pink eye is a non-serious condition which will improve on its own after a few days or weeks’ time. To speed up the recovery process, see your doctor for prescriptions or over-the-counter recommendations to alleviate discomfort and relieve symptoms more quickly. You should contact your doctor immediately if you believe you have a case of bacterial conjunctivitis or contact lens-induced papillary conjunctivitis. You should also see your doctor if at any point you experience eye pain, an increased over-sensitivity to light, if your vision becomes blurry and does not improve after blinking, or if your symptoms become increasingly worse.