Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, refers to the inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva (white part of the eyeball). When the tiny blood vessels present in the eye become inflamed, they become more visible and the white part appears to be pink or red. Recently, pink eye has been associated with COVID-19 and if you feel you may have been exposed to that infection, you should reach out to a medical professional immediately.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis can be seen in one or both eyes. They include redness, itchiness, pain and a gritty feeling in the eye, puffy eyelids and sensitivity to light. A thick or watery discharge may form a crust in the night and prevents you from opening the eye.
Types of conjunctivitis
Pink eye mostly occurs due to an infection (bacterial or viral) or an allergic reaction. Pink eye does not affect your vision but infectious conjunctivitis is highly contagious and therefore requires treatment to prevent it from spreading.
- Viral conjunctivitis is the most common and contagious type of conjunctivitis. It often spreads through schools and other crowded places. It usually causes burning, red eyes with a watery discharge.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis is also very contagious. Along with sore, red eyes and sticky pus discharge, it can be associated with other symptoms (cold, respiratory infection or sore throat). Bacterial exposure can occur from a dirty contact lens.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is a type of pink eye that happens due to an allergic reaction to something. It is not contagious but it may make your eyes very itchy, red and watery, The eyelids may also become puffy and you may experience a burning sensation. The irritants that cause allergic pink eye are pollen, smoke, car fumes, pool chlorine or other chemical substances.
Treatment for conjunctivitis
The treatment for pink eye depends on the cause behind it. Pink eye caused by any allergens or chemicals resolves on its own within a few days. Viral conjunctivitis also does not have a treatment and recovery takes about seven to ten days. However, if you experience severe eye pain, a foreign body sensation in the eye, blurred vision or light sensitivity, you should consult an eye specialist.
Some ways for you to manage the infection at home are:
1. Use a warm compress on the affected eye to help relieve the symptoms.
2. Use tear-mimic eye drops. They are easily available in local drug stores without a prescription and can relieve conjunctivitis symptoms.
3. Use over-the-counter antiallergic eye drops and a cool compress over the eye to relieve symptoms of allergic pink eye.
4. Avoid wearing contact lenses until the pink eye resolves completely and replace your eye cosmetics after the infection.
5. To avoid spreading the infection, wash your hands often and avoid sharing anything that touches your eye like towels or eye drops.
- Practice good hygiene: Avoid touching your eyes with dirty hands. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Always wipe your face with a clean towel or fresh wipes. Wash and change your pillowcases frequently.
- Own your goods: Do not share your cosmetics, especially eyeliner, mascara or any makeup products, with other people.
- Clean contact lenses: If you are getting the infection frequently, change your contact lenses. Consult your eye doctor on why this could be happening. Avoid poorly fitted or decorative contact lenses, as they may increase the risk of pink eye.
For more information, read our article on Conjunctivitis.
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