Conjunctivitis is common among adults and children residing worldwide and is one of the easily treatable medical conditions. Also known as ‘pink eyes’, conjunctivitis gets its name due to inflammation of the conjunctiva which is a thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. This inflammation makes the blood vessel of the eye much more visible, thereby giving our eyes its pink (or red) color.
Pink eyes can affect one or both eyes, is highly contagious and easily spreads between humans. It is of three main types namely allergic conjunctivitis, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is mostly due to the same virus that causes common cold and hence, individuals experience similar symptoms such as runny nose and cough.
Bacterial conjunctivitis causes continuous white discharge and it is due to the same bacteria that causes strep throat. It can be treated with antibiotic drops or ointment. Both, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis spread easily from person to person when there is direct contact with the infected person’s body fluids usually through hand-to-eye contact.
Allergic conjunctivitis is due to allergic reactions to pollens or animals and also due to cigarette smoke, car fumes, pool chlorine and other toxic substances. Symptoms usually include running nose, itchy eyes and puffy eyelids. This is not contagious.
Pink Eye Symptoms
Pink eye symptoms vary depending on the cause but commonly include:
Mostly pink eye conjunctivitis disappears on its own without treatment. Sometimes, it is essential to meet a healthcare provider for specific conditions such as intense redness in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, moderate to severe pain in eyes, a weakened immune system and symptoms that only get worse but never improve even after 24 hours of antibiotic use.
Most physicians prescribe topical antibiotic fearing that the infection might be bacterial as it is not easy to differentiate between bacterial and viral conjunctivitis simply by looking at it. Ophthalmologists condemn this policy of treating everyone just for being “safer” and even a study shows the problems faced due to antibiotic overuse to treat conjunctivitis. Patients experience side effects and allergic reactions, parents who administer antibiotics to infants and children face a greater challenge and continuous use of antibiotics increases antibiotic resistance making antibiotics less and less effective when we need them really.
Reduce Spreading of Pink Eye Conjunctivitis
As bacteria and virus are the common factors that promote spreading of conjunctivitis, it is possible to develop a secondary infection that is again contagious. Stop this by following these tips:
Newborns with Pink Eyes
When parents/caretakers notice pink eyes in newborns, it is required to meet your pediatrician immediately. It can be due to an infection, irritation or a blocked tear duct. When the same infection is due to a sexually transmitted infection, it is even more serious. When you doubt that you are infected by some sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy, get it immediately tested and treated by visiting your physician. Read more on sexually transmitted diseases at www.firsteatright.com.
Newborns are usually susceptible to bacteria present in the mother’s birth canal and this can rarely cause infants to develop ophthalmia neonatorum which needs immediate treatment to prevent causing permanent eye damage. As a precautionary measure, hospitals apply an antibiotic ointment to every newborn’s eyes to prevent eye infection.
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