Pink Eye: Common Causes, Home Treatment, And When It's A Sign Of Something Serious

Date November 14, 2018

Conjunctivitis: What is it?

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva, a mucous membrane covering the insides of the eyelids and the visible part of the eye. Pink eye can be caused by viral and bacterial infections or by exposure to allergens and other irritants. Depending on the cause, its symptoms can vary slightly.

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In most cases, conjunctivitis can be treated with over-the-counter eye drops, or it can clear up on its own. But sometimes, such as when there’s a serious infection, the condition has to be treated promptly by a medical professional.

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Symptoms of conjunctivitis

If you have conjunctivitis, your eyes become red or pink. Other symptoms include the following, according to WebMD:

  • itching and watering;
  • burning sensation in the eye;
  • a gritty feeling in the affected eye (eyes);
  • a yellow or greenish discharge that forms a crust on lashes and makes it difficult to open your eyes in the morning (often seen in bacterial conjunctivitis);
  • in allergic conjunctivitis – an itchy and runny nose. /

Symptoms that warrant urgent medical attention include the following:

  • eye pain;
  • sensitivity to light;
  • blurry vision or other vision changes;
  • severe redness affecting one or both eyes.

If your newborn has pink eye, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

You should also see your doctor if you have conjunctivitis and:

  • your symptoms don’t start to improve in several days;
  • it was caused by your contacts.

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Causes of conjunctivitis

The most common cause of pink eye is a viral infection. Rhinoviruses (the ones that cause common colds) and other viruses may cause conjunctiva inflammation.

Other causes of pink eye include the following, according to WebMD:

  • bacterial infections, usually caused by contact lenses that weren’t cleaned well;
  • allergies, especially to airborne allergens, such as pollen;
  • a foreign body in the eye, such as a splinter or a grain of sand;
  • exposure to chemicals, such as bleach (in which case you need to rinse the affected eye thoroughly with a large amount of water and see a doctor immediately);
  • in newborns – bacterial STIs in mothers.

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How to prevent conjunctivitis from spreading

If you have viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, it can be highly contagious. To avoid passing it on to others, Mayo Clinic recommends these measures:

  • don’t touch or rub your eyes with your hands;
  • wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water;
  • don’t share towels or washcloths with others;
  • change your pillowcases every day and wash them in hot water until the infection clears up;
  • dispose of your eye cosmetics, and don’t share these items with others;
  • take time off work, or leave your child home if he or she has pink eye, until you or your child has no eye discharge.

How to ease symptoms of conjunctivitis

In addition to the treatment your doctor prescribed, WebMD recommends the following to ease your symptoms:

  • don’t touch or rub your eyes, especially if you haven’t washed your hands;
  • if you have eye discharge, remove it gently with a clean cotton ball soaked in warm water;
  • avoid wearing eye makeup and contact lenses until your symptoms clear up;
  • apply a warm compress for a few minutes several times a day;
  • don’t overuse eye drops.

Follow these recommendations diligently to recover faster!

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.