A Primer on Pink Eye

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Conjunctivitis, which is commonly referred to as pink eye, is an inflammation of the clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelids and the outside of the eyeballs. It is one of the most common and most treatable infections of the eye, but can cause more serious complications if it is not treated properly.

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

The most common symptom of conjunctivitis is an eye that is pink. The area of the eye that is normally white will appear to be a light pink to red color. The area around the eyes may also turn pink and become swollen. Additionally, the eyes may secrete discharge from the tear ducts, causing the eyelids to become further inflamed. Patients who are suffering from pink eye will also commonly have burning or itching of the eyes in combination with a gritty feeling in the eyelids. It is not uncommon for patients to wake up from sleep with their eyes held together with crust that comes from the secretions made by the tear ducts.

What causes pink eye?

Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or from irritants to the eyes. Pet dander and other allergens can also make the inflammation worse. Pink eye is a very contagious condition and can spread from person to person with basic contact. An individual with pink eye should avoid close contact with others until the symptoms have disappeared. Good hand washing practices can also help to prevent the spread of the infection.

How is pink eye treated?

Pink eye will sometimes clear up on its own, but it is important than anyone with pink eye symptoms see a doctor to ensure that the condition is not becoming worse. If the inflammation is being caused by an irritant or allergen, the doctor will usually recommend that the affected individual stay away from the irritant. If it is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, the doctor will prescribe medication to stop the infection. A doctor will also be able to prescribe eye drops that can help reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of pink eye.

When should I be concerned?

Some symptoms that could be indicative of pink eye becoming more serious include major pain or redness around the eye, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light. A doctor should always see patients who have weakened immune systems or patients who are under six weeks old as soon as they symptoms of pink eye are first observed. If medication is prescribed and the eye continues to get worse, or does not show any improvement after a few days, a doctor should be contacted again to ensure that there are no further complications.

October 15, 2014
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