Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
What Is It?
Conjunctivitis (also known as Pink Eye) is the inflammation of the conjunctiva (which is the very thin and transparent layer that covers your inner eyelid and the whites of your eyes). The conjunctiva can become inflamed because of a foreign chemical (getting something splashed in your eye), environmental stressors (pollen, dust), or infection (from bacteria or viruses).
As the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, you may experience blurred vision, watery eyes, itchiness, a burning sensation or even the feeling that something gritty is under your eyelid as you blink.
The best way to prevent conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is simply by keeping your eyes clean and free from contact with foreign objects (chemicals, debris, pollen, other human contact through clothing and towels).
- Safety Glasses while working: will prevent foreign objects from entering the eye causing chemical reactions or bringing in bacteria and viruses
- Eye drops: will help against allergies and also break the cycle of itchiness (so you don’t keep rubbing and scratching your eyes)
- Regularly cleaning of cloth that comes into contact with the eye: Pillows, towels, bed sheets – these all collect bacteria and viruses which can be transferred to the eye during contact.
- Properly clean your Contact Lenses: Proper care and hygiene is required when inserting and removing contact lenses.
- Clean your hands: Your hands are full of germs, so they should be properly washed prior to touching your face, especially close to or around the eyes.
Stopping the spread: If the nature of the conjunctivitis is viral or bacterial, then transmission to another person is possible. That is why you should avoid using the same towels or pillows. Also, avoid touching your eyes. Doing so may transfer the virus or bacteria to your hands which then can jump to other household objects you touch afterward.
It is also important to avoid touching both of your eyes (like rubbing them when you wake) as you may spread the infection from one eye to the other.
Treatment for Pink Eye depends on what is specifically causing the inflammation:
Viral Infections: The body is left to deal with the infection. In the meantime, lubricating comfort drops may be given to help with the itchiness and general discomfort.
Bacterial Infections: Anti-bacterial drops may be prescribed to fight the infection.
Chemical Irritant/Foreign Debris: An extensive eye wash to flush away the irritant is important. Instructions specific to the cause of irritation will be given by the doctor after an examination.
Important: Pink eye, whether viral or just environmental, can lead to further complications, so it is important to have it looked at by an Optometrist or General Physician as soon as possible.
The Take-home Message
Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is an uncomfortable, itchy, scratchy sensation that can last from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the cause, but it is temporary and manageable. The key, however, is getting it looked at by a doctor to identify the cause and then proceed quickly with treatment.
Image Credit: Cleveland Clinic