True conjunctivitis is caused by an infection and is called “pink eye.” It usually affects both eyes, causes redness, sometimes a discharge and usually does not cause a change in the vision. Most cases of pink eye are contagious, but to varying degrees, for instance, viral causes of pink eye can be extremely contagious.
The Pink of Pink Eye
The thin transparent tissue which covers the white part of the eye is called the conjunctiva. When infected by either virus or bacteria, the conjunctiva reddens and gets swollen. Depending upon the type of infection, there may be a clear or sticky discharge.
Pink eye can affect both eyes at the same time and can also spread from one eye to the other.
Symptoms of Pink Eye
Common symptoms of conjunctival infections include:
- pink/red eyes
- burning and tearing
- itchy eyes
- puffy/swollen lids
- sensitivity to light
- discharge (sticky and/or watery)
Viral conjunctivitis is the most common type of pink eye. The virus is very similar to the virus which causes the common cold. Typically this creates mild redness and a very watery discharge. There is also some sensitivity to light.
There is no cure for viral pink eye. The infection will last up to two weeks. Antibiotic drops will not help.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is also contagious. Symptoms are very similar to viral cases, but the discharge tends to be stickier and thicker. When diagnosed with bacterial conjunctivitis, your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops to hasten the recovery.
How to Prevent Pink Eye
The best way to prevent spread of pink eye is to practice good hygiene.
Frequent washing of hands and not touching the eyes can significantly reduce the spread of the infection to others. Be careful not to share towels, washcloths and even pillow cases. Wash these items frequently.
One word of caution, not all red eyes are infections. There are many causes of irritated red eyes not caused by infection. Consult your eye doctor if you are concerned.
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