Pink Eye Overview
Pink eye or as doctors call it, conjunctivitis, may have several different causes. For this reason it is always important to see your optometrist if you develop a red or goopy eye to determine the correct cause and start the most appropriate treatment.
Our eye doctors at EyeTech Optometry, in Frisco Colorado, regularly treat pink eye. They can help you determine the cause and start the most appropriate treatment for your pink eye.
Viral Pink Eye
The most common type of pink eye in adults is viral conjunctivitis, much like having a cold, but in your eye. Viral conjunctivitis is relatively common throughout the year and often manifests during or just after having an upper respiratory infection (common cold) or after coming into contact with someone who is sick. Viral conjunctivitis often starts in one eye only but may move to the other eye. The eyes will be diffusely red, very watery, and the eyelids may swell and become red, but this condition is typically painless with minimal change to vision. Patients will usually have crusty eyelids in the morning, or lids may be crusted shut in several cases.
Just like the common cold, most viral pink eye infections will run their course but can be very contagious and irritating. Your optometrist can often prescribe topical medications to shorten the course of the infection and to help with ocular comfort. Patients should be very careful to wash hands thoroughly, avoid touching the eyes, wash pillow cases, towels and sheets on sanitary wash, or with bleach. If you work with other people, in the food service industry, a healthcare setting or schools; it is often prudent to take off work during the contagious period to prevent further spreading. Some viruses may live on inanimate surfaces for up to 7 weeks making them very easy to spread.
Bacterial Pink Eye
The second most common type of infectious pink eye is bacterial conjunctivitis, which typically affects children more than adults. The most common signs of bacterial conjunctivitis in children are red, goopy eyes with yellow or green discharge, often worse in the mornings. In toddlers and infants age 2 and under the eyes may still appear white, but the eyelids will be crusty, and green/yellow discharge will be present. Children with bacterial conjunctivitis will often have a concurrent middle ear infection. Bacterial conjunctivitis requires treatment with topical antibiotics, but resolves very quickly with treatment. As with viral conjunctivitis hand washing, washing towels, pillow cases and sheets are very important. It is also prudent to avoid contact with other children for 24-48 hours after starting treatment to prevent spreading the infection. Bacterial conjunctivitis is spread by direct contact and is thus less contagious than viral conjunctivitis but may still spread.
Allergic Pink Eye
The last type of pink eye, allergic conjunctivitis, is non-contagious. The primary symptom of allergic conjunctivitis is significant itching and swelling of the eyelids or conjunctiva (the clear covering over the white part of the eye). Patients experiencing allergic conjunctivitis will have red, watery eyes that are very itchy. Allergic conjunctivitis is more common in the warmer months and in patients who suffer from seasonal allergies. Common triggers where we live are pine pollen starting in late spring as the snow melts, wild fire smoke in summers and ragweed pollen into fall. As with other forms of conjunctivitis proper diagnosis is important to start the correct treatment. Taking oral antihistamines before the start of allergy season and then daily throughout may help reduce sings and symptoms. However, allergic pink eye may require topical treatment with steroid eye drops or mast cell stabilizers that can be prescribed by your optometrist to quickly relieve itchy, red and watery eyes.
Our doctors at EyeTech Optometry can determine the cause and start the most appropriate treatment for your pink eye.