Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva in the eye. Conjunctiva are the thin clear tissues that cover the white part of your eyes and line the insides of your eyelids.
There are a number of different causes of pink eye, including:
- Allergies, like dust and pollen
- Certain allergies related to wearing contact lenses
- Irritants such as shampoos, dirt, smoke, and pool chlorine
Pink eye caused by some bacteria and viruses can be highly contagious, and lead to unpleasant symptoms, which can be very inconvenient. It is not usually dangerous, except to newborn babies, in which case it can cause vision loss.
The symptoms of pink eye
As the name suggests, pink eye causes your eye/s to become extremely red. The eyelids might also become red and inflamed as well. Other symptoms can include:
- Thick discharge that crusts over the eyelashes, especially after sleep, usually yellow in color
- Green or white discharge from the eye and under the lids
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
Pink eye can be very contagious, spread when a person rubs their eyes and touches surfaces, which others touch and then touch their eyes. It can also be spread through shared towels.
Going to the doctor
If you think you have pink eye, see your doctor. They will examine you and will often take a sample of the fluid from your eyes to send it to a lab in order to determine the cause. It could be bacteria, viruses, or possibly a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Discovering the cause can help you get the right treatment promptly.
Pink eye caused by bacteria and STDs will usually be treated with antibiotics, in the forms of eye drops, ointments and/or pills. The infection will usually disappear within a week.
If it is caused by a virus, such as the common cold, it will usually run along the same course as a cold, about 4 to 7 days.
Preventing pink eye
Frequent hand washing is the best ways to avoid pink eye. Not touching your eyes or rubbing them too much can also help.