Common Eye Infections: Diagnosing and Treating Pink Eye

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Common Eye Infections: Diagnosing and Treating Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis – or pink eye – is one of the most common illnesses of the eye, and often one of the most misunderstood. If one of your eyes is itching uncontrollably, and you notice that the whites are a distinct red color, chances are you have contracted pink eye. This is a highly contagious infection, yet one that can be eased quickly with proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is Pink Eye?

On the inside of your eyelids and the outside of the white portion of your eye is a thin protective membrane known as the conjunctiva. This membrane contains microscopic blood vessels and works at producing a mucus that keeps the surface of your eyes protected and moist. Any illness that causes the small blood vessels to become inflamed will result in red or bloodshot eyes. If it is a virus that causes the inflammation then you have contracted pink eye.

Pink Eye Types

Not every case of pink eye is the same, making it important that you understand the differences and know when medical intervention is necessary:

  • Viral Conjunctivitis – This can be caused by any common virus, including the common cold. This makes it highly contagious, but like a cold will clear up on its own in a few days even without medical treatment.
  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis – When inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection an antibiotic drop may be necessary. If left untreated, this type of conjunctivitis can cause serious damage to the eye.
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis – Individuals who suffer from hay fever and other types of allergies may also experience a similar reaction in the eye. This can be triggered by pollen, pet dander, dust and other known irritants.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

The most obvious sign of conjunctivitis is the pink color noted in the whites of the eye. Other symptoms will vary depending on the type that you have:

  • Viral – The eyes appear watery and itchy. The individual may also appear to have a sensitivity to light. This is highly contagious, being spread by direct contact or even by coughing and sneezing.
  • Bacterial – With a bacterial infection in the eye, they appear much the same as with a virus with the addition of a sticky green or yellow discharge coming from the corners of the eye. In severe cases, this substance will cause the eyelids to stick together, making them difficult to open after sleep. This type of pink eye requires medical attention as soon as possible in order to prevent any damage.
  • Allergy – When caused by allergies, pink eye is watery, itchy and often burns. An afflicted individual may also have a runny nose or stuffiness and experience light sensitivity. Normal allergy remedies should help to clear up the symptoms.

Although with the exception of allergy related pink eye this is a highly infectious ailment, it is also preventable. Never share your personal items that touch your face, and take care to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands often and avoid rubbing or touching your eyes, especially during flu and cold seasons. If you follow these tips and keep up with regular eye exams you should be able to keep your eyes nice and white.

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