Medically called conjunctivitis, pink eye is a common viral or bacterial infection that irritates and inflames your eye, but rarely causes vision problems. It is, however, contagious, so make an appointment with the eye care professionals at the Witlin Center for Advanced Eye Care, serving East Brunswick, Toms River, and Morristown, New Jersey. They can diagnose and treat your pink eye to limit its spread. Call or click for an appointment today.
Your eyelids and eyeballs are lined with a clear membrane called the conjunctiva and, like much tissue in your body, it’s vulnerable to infection, though your body’s protective systems usually prevent this from happening. The conjunctiva has its own network of tiny blood vessels. When these become inflamed, these vessels make the whites of your eyes look pink, which gives conjunctivitis the more common name.
Pink eye can affect one or both eyes, causing redness, itchiness, irritation, tearing, or a feeling of grit in your eye. Overnight, pink eye may produce a discharge that causes your eyelids to crust over, making it difficult to open your eye. While the most intense symptoms usually pass in a day or two, it’s possible the infection could last longer. Seeing an eye care professional at the Witlin Center for Advanced Eye Care is a good idea if your pink eye stretches into the third day.
Viruses are the most common cause of conjunctivitis, and both viral and bacterial causes may accompany respiratory ailments, such as colds, sore throats, or the flu. You can spread viral and bacterial pink eye through both direct and indirect contact with others, through contact with the fluid that drains from an infected eye.
Conjunctivitis may also occur due to allergies. This could be in response to contact with some types of pollen, for example, that stimulates histamine production. This can cause itchy eyes and in extreme cases, pink eye. Typically, allergy-related pink eye is accompanied by sneezing, runny nose, and other common allergy responses.
You may also develop pink eye due to chemical irritation or a foreign object in your eye. Depending on the severity of the irritant, urgent eye care may be advised to prevent permanent damage.
Because it’s usually viral in origin, pink eye treatment typically centers around symptom relief. This can include eye drops, warm and cold eye compresses, and extra attention to hygiene, such as extra cleaning of your eyelids. If you wear contact lenses, stop using these while you recover. Clean or replace your contact lens cleaning supplies.
Antibiotic eyedrops typically aren’t used since these don't affect viral causes. The complete course of the infection may be two weeks or more to clear.