Taking Care of your Pink Eye

This a second of a short two part series on Pink Eye.  You can read the preceding article on pink eye which discusses common causes of pink eye.   Always remember that if you have questions about your eyes, especially if they are red, painful or if your vision becomes blurry, consult your doctor.

Pink Eye Can Be Contagious

Of the 3 common causes of pink eye, viral and bacterial causes can be quite contagious, especially viral pink eye.  Allergic causes are not contagious.

Use hand sanitizer or thoroughly wash your hands after touching your affected eye.  

Don’t share washcloths, towels, or pillows. Children should be kept home from school to avoid spreading pink eye. 

What to Do with Your Pink Eye

Persistent symptoms can be from severe allergy or and infection that needs treatment.  While it is possible that the eyes are pink due to systemic illness:  rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosis or even inflammatory bowel disease, it is unlikely.

If you or your child experience persistent problems, call your physician to ask advice.

Treatment of Pinkeye

Bacterial causes (diagnosed by your doctor) are treated with antibiotics.  Usually, topical eyedrops are sufficient to control the infection.  On occasion, ointments or oral antibiotics may be needed.  Your doctor will prescribe the most effective treatment and treatment modality for you.

Viral pink eye can not be treated with antibiotics.  In fact, just like the common cold (also caused by a virus), there is no particular medicine to clear the infection.  In most cases, you have to let the infection run its course - which may take several days to a week.  In severe cases, certain eyedrops to control inflammation may be needed.  Again, your doctor will suggest the best course.

Allergic causes of pink eye can be difficult to treat because we all react so differently to allergens in the air.  Topical eyedrops, oral medicines (antihistamines), and allergy shots are all various modalities of treatment which can treat your symptoms.  Seasonal allergies are commonly treated in this fashion.  Other conditions, such as allergy to dust, mold, or pet dander, may prove more difficult to treat and may require treatment/cleaning of the entire house.

What NOT to do if you have pink eye

No matter what type of pink eye you have, do not use red-reducing eye drops such as Visine. These types of eye drops can make your symptoms worse and increase the chances of spreading the infection (drops running down your cheek can be contagious). 

Some blogs and social media posts have recommended putting breast milk into a child’s eye for pink eye treatment.  As reported in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, there is no scientific evidence that supports this, and it could be harmful as breast milk could introduce new bacteria into the eye.