Conjunctivitis, or “pink eye”, refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva, the translucent, outer most tissue on the front surface of the eye. Conjunctivitis is a non-specific term, as it can be caused by any inflammatory condition: allergy, virus, bacteria.
Pink Eye Symptoms
Conjunctivitis often causes symptoms including ocular redness and a foreign-body sensation. There can be a clear, mucoid or purulent discharge from the eye and is often accompanied by intense itching. Bacterial conjunctivitis often involves only one eye, whereas viral conjunctivitis starts in one eye and spreads to the other, and allergic conjunctivitis affects both eyes from the onset.
Viral pink eye is often accompanied by typical cold symptoms. You may experience nasal congestion, coughing and a runny nose. If the virus spreads to your lymph nodes, you may be tender or swollen just in front of your ears, where the lymph nodes are located.
With bacterial conjunctivitis, the discharge is usually thick and sticky and green or grey in color instead of the clear runny discharge of viral conjunctivitis. The upper eyelids may be swollen and the eyes are generally more painful than in viral pinkeye.
Pinkeye caused by allergies often presents with the same symptoms of seasonal allergies. A scratchy throat is an additional symptom sometimes experienced with conjunctivitis brought on by allergens.
Misconceptions About Pinkeye
When pinkeye occurs, most parents believe it’s the highly contagious variety. However, only bacterial pinkeye is contagious. The best way to determine what type of pinkeye you or your child has is to visit your ophthalmologist or eye doctor. They can ascertain if the condition is bacterial, viral or caused by allergies, and ease any concerns that you or your child may be contagious.
Other patients fall on the opposite end of the spectrum by assuming their pinkeye will clear up on its own. While this could happen, it’s better to be safe and visit the eye doctor. If a patient’s pinkeye is caused by a virus or bacteria, it may require medicated eye drops, antibiotics or another form of treatment.
Many different home remedies can be used to help pinkeye symptoms, including:
- Warm or cool compresses
- Eye drops
However, these should not be a replacement for professional medical advice. Home remedies should only be used to alleviate symptoms while you’re waiting to visit your eye doctor. Also, patients should ensure that they do no use a compress on one eye and then place it on the other, as this could spread infection.
Professional Pinkeye Treatment
Treatment for conjunctivitis depends largely on the cause of the inflammation. If it is bacterial in origin, a broad-spectrum topical antibiotic is often the prescribed treatment. For viral infections (as is true with the common cold), antibiotic treatments are of little benefit. Cool compresses, artificial tears and hand hygiene are are recommended remedies. Similar to the common cold, viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and the8 patient should take great caution in avoiding the spread to others until the eye is no longer red and tearing. Allergic conjunctivitis is most readily treated with antihistamines (topical and/or systemic) and artificial tears.