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All About Conjunctivitis

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most frequently seen eye infections, particularly when it comes to children. This infection can be caused by bacteria, a virus or allergies to pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other substances that penetrate your eyes. Certain kinds of pink eye are quite transmittable and swiftly go around in schools and at the office or home.

Conjunctivitis develops when the conjunctiva, or thin clear layer of tissue over the white part of the eye, gets inflamed. It's easy to recognize conjunctivitis if you notice eye discharge, redness, itching or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Symptoms of pink eye may occur in one or both eyes. Pink eye infections can be divided into three main sub-types: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is usually a result of a similar virus to that which produces the recognizable red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are likely to stick around for a week to two and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. The viral form of pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so meanwhile, wipe away any discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. Children who have viral pink eye should be kept home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should see an improvement after three or four days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to finish the entire course of antibiotics to stop pink eye from coming back.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. The first step in treating allergic pink eye is to eliminate or avoid the allergen, when applicable. To ease discomfort, try artificial tears or compresses. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the conjunctivitis persists for an extended period, steroid eye drops may be prescribed.

Conjunctivitis should always be checked out by a professional optometrist in order to determine the type and proper course of treatment. Don't ever treat yourself! Keep in mind the earlier you start treatment, the less chance you have of giving the infection to others or suffering unnecessarily.


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