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Walter Shurminsky O.D.

Home » News and Events » Red, Itchy Eyes? Perhaps it’s Pink Eye

Red, Itchy Eyes? Perhaps it’s Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a frequently seen eye illness, particularly when it comes to children. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria or allergies to pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients found in cosmetics, or other chemicals, which penetrate your eyes. Many types of conjunctivitis are fairly transmittable and swiftly go around at school and in the office or home.

Pink eye ensues when the thin clear layer of tissue lining the white part of your eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. It's easy to identify conjunctivitis if you notice eye itching, discharge, redness or inflamed eyelids and eyes that are crusty early in the day. The three basic subtypes of pink eye are: bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis.

The viral manifestation is often a result of a similar virus to that which produces the recognizable red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of pink eye can stick around for seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. To relieve discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. The viral form of pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meanwhile wipe away any discharge and avoid sharing towels or pillowcases. If your child has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to stay home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should see an improvement after three or four days of treatment, but be sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to stop conjunctivitis from coming back.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not transmittable. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that triggers an allergic response in their eyes. The first step in treating allergic pink eye is to eliminate the irritant, when applicable. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. In cases of chronic allergic pink eye, topical steroid eye drops could be used.

Pink eye should always be diagnosed by an experienced eye doctor to determine the cause and optimal course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Keep in mind the earlier you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of spreading pink eye to others or suffering unnecessarily.