Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is redness and inflammation of the membranes (conjuctiva) covering the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids. These membranes react to a wide range of bacteria, viruses, allergy-provoking agents, irritants, and toxic agents, as well as to underlying diseases within the body. Viral and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are common in childhood, but they can occur in people of any age. Overall however, there are many causes of pink eye. These can be classified as either infectious or noninfectious.
Viral pink eye:
The leading cause of a red, inflamed eye is virus infection. A number of different viruses can be responsible for the infection. Viral pink eye symptoms are usually associated with more of a watery discharge that is not green or yellow in color. Often, viral "cold-like" symptoms, such as sinus congestion and runny nose, are also present. The eyelids may be swollen. Sometimes looking at bright lights is painful. While viral pink eye may not require an antibiotic, those affected should see a doctor, as occasionally this form of pink eye can be associated with infection of the cornea (the clear portion of the front of the eyeball). This infection must be correctly detected and treated. Viral pink eye is highly contagious. Viral pink eye usually resolves in seven to 10 days after symptoms appear.
Bacterial pink eye:
The bacteria that most commonly cause infectious pink eye are staphylococci, pneumococci, and streptococci. Bacterial pink eye symptoms include:
4.a moderate to large amount of discharge, usually yellow or greenish in color.
The discharge commonly accumulates after sleeping. Affected children may awaken most unhappy that their "eyes are stuck shut," requiring a warm washcloth applied to the eyes to remove the discharge. Bacterial pink eye is treated by repeated warm washcloths applied to the eyes (try applying these to your child's eye one eye at a time during a favorite video) and requires antibiotic eyedrops or ointment prescribed by the doctor.
Be careful not to use medication prescribed for someone else, or from an old infection, as these may be inappropriate for your current infection or may have been contaminated from other infections by accidentally touching the medicine bottle to infected areas. A safe, effective, and "less scary for your child" method of putting drops into the eyes involves asking your child to lie down flat, with instructions to merely "close your eyes," and placing the recommended number of drops in the inner corner of the eye, next to the bridge of the nose, and letting them make a little "lake" there. When your child relaxes and opens the eyes, the medicine will flow gently into the infected mucous membranes without the need to "force open" the eyes.
When you feel that you or your child might have bacterial pink eye, it is very important to see your doctor
immediately for several reasons. First, if the cause is a bacterial infection, an antibiotic will be needed to help the infection-fighting immune system to kill this infection. Secondly, if you are experiencing other symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, earache, etc., there is a good chance that these symptoms are caused by the same bacteria, and an oral antibiotic may very well be needed to treat this infection along with the antibiotic drops or ointment for the eyes. Finally, your doctor will want to exclude the possibility that the infection has spread to areas where the symptoms may not yet be recognizable.
Pink eye treatment options vary, often depending on whether your conjunctivitis is caused by a virus or bacteria. Antibiotic eye ointments or drops may help bacterial forms of conjunctivitis, but don't work for viral forms.
If you have allergic conjunctivitis, artificial tears may help dilute irritating allergens that may be present in your tear film. Antihistamine allergy pills or eyedrops also may help control symptoms.
For all types of conjunctivitis, warm compresses placed on the outside of the eyelids and lubricating eyedrops may help eyes feel better.
Antibiotic treatment for conjunctivitis in newborn infants may be given by injection, by mouth, by eye drops or by ointment, depending on which germ your doctor suspects is causing the infection. When oral antibiotics are prescribed, they should be continued for the full course (often 14 days), even if the eyes appear better after only a few days.
If drops or ointments are to be used, first wipe any mucus or pus off the lids with a tissue or cotton ball dipped in warm water. Then gently pull the eyelids apart, place one drop (or a 1/4 inch ribbon of ointment) into the small pouch that this forms and hold the eye closed for a few seconds. Avoid touching the dropper or tube to the eye. Treat both eyes even if only one side looks infected.
Since tears quickly wash out the eyes, drops should be given with feedings around the clock. Ointment need be given only three times a day. Treatment should be continued for five to seven days. Regular diet and family activities with the baby can continue during this illness.
Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, which can be caused by airborne sources, spread easily to others. So your first line of defense is to avoid the cause of conjunctivitis, such as contaminated hand towels.
Never share washcloths, towels or pillowcases with anyone at home or in a public environment. Don't share eyedrops or cosmetics such as eyeliner, eye shadow or mascara. If you have pink eye, replace these items to avoid re-infection after your recovery.
Swim goggles are good protection against organisms that can cause pink eye.
Keep windows and doors closed on days when the airborne pollen count is high.Dust and vacuum frequently to eliminate allergens in the home.
Stay in well ventilated areas if you're exposed to smoke, chemicals or fumes. If you are a swimmer, try protective swim goggles. Exposure to chlorinated water in pools can be a source of noninfectious pink eye, such as allergic conjunctivitis caused by irritation.
Always follow the strict cleaning and handling instructions taught by your eye care practitioner to avoid bacterial contamination of the contact lens, which could then spread to the eye.
If you do have pink eye, do not wear your contact lenses until the condition has been resolved. Otherwise, you run the risk of extending or worsening symptoms. Even if your contact lenses are extended wear and it isn't time for disposal, you still may need to replace them, because they could be contaminated.
Replace any contact lens solutions in which contaminated contact lenses may have been placed.
When you take a bath or enter a hot tub or any other body of water, be sure to remove contact lenses first to avoid trapping bacteria between your eye and the lens. If other explanations have been ruled out, ask your eye doctor about the possibility that you could be having an allergic reaction to your particular contact lens solution or preservatives within that solution. Soft contact lens wearers are more susceptible to a form of pink eye known as giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC), caused by abnormal immune responses. If you have GPC, ask your eyecare practitioner about other options, such as wearing a different kind of lens.
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