Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye,” is an inflammation of the membrane (conjunctiva) that covers the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid. It is a fairly common condition and usually causes no danger to the eye or your child’s vision . The inflammation can have many causes, the most common of which are infectious and allergic irritants.
Pink eye may be more serious if you: have a condition that decreases your ability to fight infection (impaired immune system), have vision in only one eye or you wear contact lenses.
It’s called pinkeye because the white part of the eye and inside the eyelids become red or pink when you have it. Pinkeye may start in one eye, but many people get conjunctivitis in both eyes at the same time. Conjunctivitis usually doesn’t hurt, but itching can be annoying.
One cause involves the introduction of either bacterial or viral microorganisms into the eye. These may be transmitted to the eye by contaminated hands, washcloths or towels, cosmetics (particularly eye makeup), false eyelashes or extended wear contacts.
Minor conjunctivitis can accompany a viral cold or flu. Although bacterial and some of the viral infections (particularly herpes) are not very common, they are potentially serious. Both types of infection are contagious.
Irritants are another cause of conjunctivitis. Offenders of this type include air pollutants, smoke, soap, hair spray, makeup, chlorine, cleaning fluids, etc.
Seasonal allergic response to grass and other pollens can cause some individuals to acquire conjunctivitis.
The symptoms of infectious conjunctivitis caused by a bacteria or viruses are:
The symptoms of conjunctivitis caused by allergies are:
Treatment varies with the cause. There is no curative treatment for common viral conjunctivitis; it usually will go away by itself in one to six weeks. Lubricating eye drops sometimes help to ease symptoms.
A person with conjunctivitis should follow these general guidelines: