While technically you are not seeing red, conjunctivitis is a very common eye infection. Known better as pink eye or red eye, this condition is easily treated, as long as it is diagnosed properly. There are a number of types of conjunctivitis, making it important that you seek medical attention before attempting to treat it on your own.
Conjunctivitis can be extremely contagious. If you think you have pink eye, schedule an appointment immediately.
Conjunctivitis, simply put, is an infection of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the mucus membrane that covers the surface of your eyeball and the inside of your eyelid. When this becomes inflamed you experience watery, itchy, burning, red eyes that are sensitive to light. In some cases, there may be a yellowish discharge or you awaken with eyes “glued” shut.
There are three distinct types of conjunctivitis, each with their own course of treatment.
Bacterial conjunctivitis: This is the most traditional variation of red eye. It is spread through bacteria, making it extremely contagious. Children easily spread it throughout their classrooms via hand-to-eye contact. It usually appears in one eye but can easily spread to the other eye. It is important to stay away from others when you have this form of pink eye.
Viral conjunctivitis: Just like the common cold, tonsillitis, and cold sores, this form of red eye is caused by a virus. Because of its viral nature, it is likely you will experience swollen lymph nodes by the ears or under the jaw. Just like it’s bacterial cousin, this form is highly contagious and can spread like wildfire from one eye to the other, throughout the household, and into the classroom. It is important to stay home with a viral red eye.
Allergic conjunctivitis: As with any allergic reaction, this type of red eye is caused by a benign outside stimulus that your body has identified as harmful. It could be pet dander, pollen, dust, or anything that causes you to have an allergic reaction.
The treatment for conjunctivitis depends heavily on the type of red eye you are dealing with. A doctor or optometrist can ascertain whether it is bacterial, viral, or allergic and suggest/prescribe an appropriate course of action.
There are three distinct types of conjunctivitis treatments.
Bacterial treatment: The silver lining on this form of pink eye is that it can be treated with antibiotics. Typically prescribed in the form of eye drops, ensure that you take the drops as directed to sufficiently fight the bacteria. Dispose of any makeup or eye products and wash any blankets or sheets you used while contagious.
Viral treatment: As with other viral infections, this should clear up on its own in a matter of weeks. However, it is still important to seek a diagnosis, as a wrong guess could leave your body attempting to fight bacterial conjunctivitis on its own. Wash all the blankets and dispose of any makeup that may have come into contact with your eyes.
Allergic treatment: Since this type of inflammation is caused by an allergic reaction, the treatment usually involves oral or ocular antihistamines. The allergen should be removed if possible (such as in the case of pet dander or dust), or you should remove yourself from an allergic situation (like pollen or grass). For environmental allergens that cannot be avoided, it may be useful to have antihistamines on hand for flare-ups.
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