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Pink eye is often associated with little kids, but in truth anyone can get it, including adults and senior citizens. Pink eye is spread through a variety of ways, including touching surfaces that have become infected with bacteria, swimming in a pool that contains viruses, and allergies. Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye occurs when the thin, clear tissue that lines the inner eyelid and protects the white part of the eye becomes inflamed. When this happens, the blood vessels become more prominent, giving the eye a pink or reddish look. Pink eye can affect one or both eyes at the same time, resulting in a painful, itchy, or even burning sensation that is quite unpleasant. In many cases the eyes tear up or create a discharge, which can then form a crust and cause the eyes to stick together in the morning.
While pink eye can affect anyone, preschoolers, schoolchildren, college students, teachers, daycare workers, babysitters, and others who work around small children are particularly at risk because of how closely they work together with others. It should be noted that many eye doctors only use the term pink eye when referring to viral conjunctivitis, which is the most contagious version. However, pink eye can be used as a blanket term to describe any of the three infections that result in conjunctivitis.
What Causes Pink Eye?
We’ve briefly looked at the three different types of conjunctivitis, but let’s dive a little deeper:
● Viral conjunctivitis – The most common type of pink eye, viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus, such as a common cold. In most cases the virus clears up on its own within a few days and does not require any medical treatment.
● Bacterial conjunctivitis – This type of pink eye is caused by a bacteria, such as in the swimming pool like the example mentioned above. If left untreated, bacterial conjunctivitis can result in serious damage to the eye.
● Allergic conjunctivitis – This version of pink eye is caused by eye irritants like pollen, dust, and animal hair or dander. Individuals who are susceptible to allergies may have seasonal flare ups of pink eye or year-round issues, if they are particularly sensitive.
● Chemical conjunctivitis – This is a non-contagious form of pink eye that is caused by exposure to chemical-based irritants. Common examples include exposure to smoke from vehicles, chlorine in swimming pools, and chemicals from household products. This type of pink eye usually clears up on its own after a day or two.
As you may have guessed, the main symptom of pink eye is an eye that appears pink or reddish. Other common signs of conjunctivitis include:
● Watery, itchy eyes
● Light sensitivity
● A sticky, yellow, or greenish-yellow discharge in the corner of the eye
● Eyelids that are stuck or ‘glued’ together, especially when first waking up in the morning
● Burning eye
● Stuffiness and a runny nose (most commonly with allergic conjunctivitis)
It is imperative you see your Arlington eye doctor right away if you notice any symptoms of pink eye, as treatment may be necessary in order to avoid serious damage. Depending on the type of pink eye, you may need to take prescription eye drops or an antibiotic to clear it up. The best protectant against pink eye is practicing good hygiene, especially when working around small children or in a public setting. Wash your hands, use sanitizer, and wash down surfaces exposed to kids. To schedule an appointment with one of our Arlington eye doctors, please contact First Eye Care today.