You know, the red, itchy, goopy, crusty condition that affects the eyes?
Maybe someone in your class in elementary school had it, or maybe that unlucky kid was you.
Either way, pink eye is not a pretty sight.
Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is an extremely contagious medical condition that causes the inflammation and infection of the conjunctiva, which are the membranes that line the eyelids and cover that white part of the eye.
Pink eye infections can be caused by many things, but are most commonly the result of bacteria, a virus, or allergen, with more serious types being linked to chlamydia or gonorrhea bacterial infections.
But the symptoms are typically the same across the board, with some exceptions.
Of course, the hallmark pink or red color of the eyes, itching, irritation, or burning, the production of pus or mucus from the eyes and consequently crusting of eyelids or lashes.
Swelling of the conjunctiva—the thin layer that lines the whites of the eyes—and/or eyelids, watery eyes, and the feeling that something is in the eyes.
If pink eye is the result of an allergy, then usually both eyes are affected and may be accompanied by other allergy symptoms like a stuffy nose.
Both viral and bacterial pink eye are very contagious, and are spread through direct or indirect contact with the liquid that secretes from the eyes—this is actually why a pink eye infection frequently infects both eyes.
And bacterial and viral infections can be caused by a few different things.
For instance, a bacterial infection can be triggered by wearing contact lenses that haven’t been cleaned.
But both the viruses and bacteria that cause pink eye can be transferred via direct or indirect contact with the eyes themselves, or objects like eye drop bottles, telescopes, binoculars, pillowcases or towels.
Pink eye caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia are typically more serious if and when they occur in newborns.
Women with untreated gonorrhea or chlamydia can pass the bacteria on to their babies during childbirth and may result in bacterial conjunctivitis that can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious infection.
Symptoms can appear as soon as 2 days after birth, up to 12 days after birth.
Rarely, pink eye can spread to the cornea and cause keratitis, which is the inflammation of the cornea—but this is more likely in cases where the condition was caused by dirty contact lenses.
If keratitis does occur, see a doctor because if left untreated, it could lead to vision loss.
And pink eye caused by an allergy is typically onset by allergic reactions to pollen, dust, or dirt.
Again, pink eye caused by an allergic reaction is not contagious.
So what can you do if you get pink eye?
Well, since it’s hard to tell what the underlying cause of a pink eye infection is, seeking the aid of a healthcare professional is the first thing anyone who suspects they have pink eye should do.
For bacterial infections, eye drops or ointments with antibiotics will most likely be prescribed—but if the infection is viral then only the symptoms can be treated.
In which case non-antibiotic eye drops, or cold and warm compresses are frequently used.
But viral infections typically clear up on their own in one to two weeks.
And for pink eye caused by an allergy, then allergy medicine like antihistamines would be prescribed.
In the meantime, throw away any cosmetics or contacts that have touched infected eyes to prevent pink eye from spreading, and wash your hands frequently, especially after touching infected eyes.
And if you want to avoid getting pink eye in the first place, don’t share potentially infected items like towels, washcloths, and makeup.
Believe me, no one wants to be a sight for sore eyes.
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