Conjunctivitis, more commonly referred to as “pink eye,” is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines the eyelid and part of the eyeball.
When inflamed, small blood vessels in the conjunctiva become more prominent, which is what causes the pink or red look of the whites of the eyes. Conjunctivitis can spread quickly from one person to another and affects millions of Americans at any given time.
Warning Signs & Symptoms
The most common symptoms of conjunctivitis are:
- A gritty feeling
- Tearing up of the eyes
- Discharge that forms a crust during sleep
In general, conjunctivitis does not affect vision or require extensive or emergency treatment. Because it can be highly contagious for as long as two weeks after someone displays symptoms, it is important to seek diagnosis and treatment early.
For bacterial conjunctivitis, doctors often prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment, which should resolve the inflammation in several days. The more common form, viral conjunctivitis, cannot be treated by antibiotics and must simply run its course. This type of pink eye is often associated with the common cold. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by allergies, and this form is not contagious.
Although pink eye often gets better without treatment, it can be accompanied by an inflammation of the cornea, which can affect vision. Extreme cases may require a Corneal Transplants.
Once diagnosed, the best way to prevent the spread of pink eye is by practicing good hygiene. Specifically:
- Wash hands often
- Avoid touching the eye
- Change towels and washcloths daily
- Change pillowcases often
In order to avoid contracting pink eye:
- Discard all used/dated eye cosmetics
- Never use someone else’s eye cosmetics
- Follow the doctor’s instructions on proper contact lens care