"Pinkeye" (conjunctivitis) is an inflammation and redness
of the conjunctiva (the layer of blood vessels covering the white
part of the eye). It can appear suddenly or overnight. Pink eye
is usually caused by viral or bacterial infections.
do you get it?
Pink eye is commonly acquired through contact with contaminated
objects (i.e. pillow cases, towels, books, others' makeup). These
objects become contaminated through direct contact with infected
eye discharge or from hands that were not properly washed after
touching an infected eye.
are the symptoms?
- Clear or cloudy eye discharge
- Light sensitivity
- Matting of the eyelashes, especially in the morning
- Itching of the eyes
is medical care needed?
If you have symptoms of pink eye, you should seek prompt medical
attention. Other problems, like abrasions or foreign bodies in the
eye, can produce similar symptoms and need to be ruled out. A culture
of the eye discharge may be needed to know what type of antibiotic
will be most effective.
can you do?
If you have a viral or bacterial form of pink eye -- which is very
contagious -- you need to take measures to decrease the chance of
spreading it to others or reinfecting your own eyes:
Change pillow cases, towels and washcloths daily.
- Discontinue the use of contact lenses until your health care
provider advises you that it is safe to resume their use.
- Throw away your eye makeup and discontinue its use until your
eyes are no longer infected (usually 5 days after treatment has
begun). Purchase new makeup when your eyes are well.
- Keep your hands off your eyes. If you need to touch them, wash
your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards.
- Use medications as directed for the time period indicated. Your
symptoms may be gone before the infection has been eliminated.
- Avoid touching the tip of any medication container (i.e., ointment
or drops) on the eye.
- Apply warm compresses to help reduce eye irritation. Use paper
towels as compresses and discard them immediately to prevent spreading
health care personnel:
if there is no improvement in 4-5 days of beginning treatment.
- if vision decreases.
- if sharp eye pain occurs.
- if sensitivity to light persists.
- anytime you are unsure of what to do.
Note About Seasonal Conjunctivitis:
This form of pink eye involves both eyes at the same time. The
discharge is water or teary, the eyes itch intensely, and it is
usually accompanied by other allergy symptoms such as sneezing.
Treatment includes use of decongestants, antihistamines, eye drops,
and removal of the allergy-producing agent. This form of pink eye
cannot be spread to others.
to Common Ailments page
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