Symptoms and Prevention of Pink Eye (Viral Conjunctivitis)
Pink eye, or viral conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of the membranes lining the eye. The condition is commonly caused by viruses, and is contagious especially among children. Inflammation of the eye membranes may also be caused by other microbes and allergens.
Pink eye may affect people of all ages. The condition, however, is more common in children mainly because of their increased susceptibility to respiratory tract infections. Therefore, children with this condition should stay away from their peers and friends for three to five days, until the contagious phase of the disease has subsided. The condition can be classified into four different types based on the underlying cause.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis affects both the eyes, and may lead to greenish discharge from the eyes. Direct physical or sexual contact with the infected individual may transmit the infection. The scarring on the eye caused by a chlamydial infection is the leading cause of preventable blindness across the globe.
- The highly contagious viral conjunctivitis usually affects only one eye. The condition is associated with upper respiratory infections such a such as flu, and common cold.
- Allergic conjunctivitis is commonly caused by allergens. The symptoms depend on the type of the allergen.
- Improper use of the contact lenses can lead to giant papillary conjunctivitis. It usually involves both eyes.
- Neonatal conjunctivitis is seen newborn babies. Untreated cases may lead to blindness. Up to 10 percent of pregnant women in the United States have some form sexually transmitted infection. Treatment before delivery will prevent pink eye in the baby due to these microbes.
Common symptoms of pink eye include redness, itching, gritty feeling, and a discharge from the eye during the night. The infection may affect one of both the eyes.
Treatment and Prevention
Good hygiene plays an important role in the prevention of pink eye. You should wash your hands regularly, and try to avoid touching your eyes. Change eye cosmetics and pillows frequently. Do not share your towels and napkins. You should also handle your contact lenses carefully to avoid contamination. Avoid touching the eyes and discharges of an infected individual. This will lower your risk significantly. Eye drops can be used to lubricate the eyes. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops or ointments to treat bacterial conjunctivitis, which may last for about two weeks. Pink eye caused by viruses can be treated with eye drops and antihistamines. The symptoms may last for three to five days. The eye balls will improve on their own after this period. Antihistamines may also help manage allergic conjunctivitis. Untreated or poorly treated cases may develop serious complications. Hence, it is better to talk to a doctor promptly.