Health Care

Understanding Pink Eye: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

A Woman Rubs the Bridge of Her Nose with Her Eyes Closed.

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Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is one of the most common eye conditions in children and adults. Pink eye may lead to discomfort, redness and irritation of the eyes. Understanding the symptoms, causes and treatment options for pink eye is crucial for maintaining optimal eye health.

Types of Pink Eye

We categorize pink eye into three main types, each with its own set of causes and symptoms:

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and typically caused by viruses like the common cold or flu. Your symptoms may include redness, watery eyes, itchiness and light sensitivity. This type of pink eye usually resolves on its own within a week or two, and treatment focuses on symptom relief.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacteria, such as staphylococcus or streptococcus, cause bacterial conjunctivitis. Symptoms include redness, thick yellow or green discharge and crusty eyelids. Your care provider often will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments to treat bacterial conjunctivitis.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs due to allergens like pollen, dust or pet dander and is not contagious. You may experience include redness, itching, excessive tearing and swollen eyelids. Use over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops and take precautions to avoid allergens to resolve this form of pink eye.

Causes and Prevention

Various factors can cause pink eye. Here are some common causes and preventive measures to consider:

Viral and Bacterial Infections

Viruses or bacteria can cause pink eye, spreading through direct contact or sharing contaminated objects. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes to help reduce your chances of picking up this infection.

Allergens

Allergic conjunctivitis is triggered by exposure to allergens. Minimize your contact with known allergens, such as pollen or pet dander, and keep your living spaces clean to reduce allergen exposure.

Contact Lenses

If you wear contact lenses, it’s especially important to practice proper hygiene when handling them, as improper use can increase the risk of developing pink eye. Remember to follow your eye care professional's instructions for cleaning, disinfecting, and replacing contact lenses to reduce the likelihood of infection.

Treatment and Care

If you have pink eye, finding effective treatment options will depend on what type of conjunctivitis you’re experiencing. Consider the following:

Self-Care Measures

  • Apply a clean, warm compress to your eyes to alleviate discomfort and reduce swelling
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes, as it can worsen the condition or spread the infection

Medications

  • If you’re diagnosed with bacterial conjunctivitis, your health care provider may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments
  • Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops can help relieve symptoms of viral and allergic conjunctivitis

Professional Guidance

  • Seek medical advice if you experience severe symptoms, persistent discomfort or changes in vision
  • Ophthalmologists and optometrists can provide expert care and recommend the most appropriate treatment for your condition

No matter the type of pink eye, prompt treatment is important. Pink eye can lead to inflammation of your cornea, which can impact your vision.

Expert Eye Care at AdventHealth

At AdventHealth, we understand the importance of maintaining optimal eye health. Our experienced team is committed to providing comprehensive care and personalized treatment options for various eye conditions, including pink eye. If you’re experiencing negative side effects from pink eye, schedule an appointment with one of our experts today.

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