Pinkeye Overview Symptoms Treatments
Wake Forest Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is an infection or inflammation of the transparent membrane or conjunctiva. The Conjunctiva lines your eyelid and covers the white portion of your eyeball. When the small blood vessels in the conjunctiva are inflamed, they are easier to see. This effect causes the white area of the eyes to appear as reddish or pink.
Pink eye is often caused by a viral or bacterial infection, an allergic reaction, or a partially open tear duct in babies.
While pink eye can be a nuisance, it does not usually impact your vision. Treatment options can aid in reducing the discomfort associated with pink eye. Because the condition is contagious, early diagnosis and prompt treatment help to minimize the spread.
The most common symptoms of pink eye include the following:
- Eye redness
- Itchy eyes
- Gritty sensation in the eyes
- Discharge in the eyes which can form a crust overnight
- Watery eyes
There are some eye conditions which are serious and can cause redness of the eyes. These conditions may include eye pain, a sensation that something is stuck in your eye, blurred vision and sensitivity to the light. If you experience any of these symptoms, follow up with your doctor immediately.
As soon as pink eye symptoms begin, patients who wear contact lenses need to stop wearing them. If the symptoms do not improve within 12 to 24 hours, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. They can ensure you do not have a more serious eye infection associated with your contact lens use.
Causes of pink eye can include viruses, bacteria, allergies, a chemical splash, a foreign object in the eye, or for newborns, a blocked tear duct.
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis
Most cases of pink eye are caused by the adenovirus, but it can also be caused by herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster virus, and various other viruses, such as the virus which causes coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.
Patients can experience both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis along with colds or respiratory infection symptoms, such as a sore throat. Using contact lenses which are not properly cleaned or are not your own lenses can also cause bacterial conjunctivitis.
Both types of conjunctivitis are highly contagious and spread through direct or indirect contact with the liquid which drains from the eye of an infected patient. It is possible for one or both eyes to be affected.
Allergic conjunctivitis will impact both eyes as a response to an allergy-causing substance like pollen. When your body response to allergens, it produces an antibody which is called immunoglobulin E. This antibody triggers special cells which are called mast cells in the mucous lining of your eyes and airways to release inflammatory substances, which include histamines. When your body releases a histamine, it can produce a number of allergy signs and symptoms, which often includes red, pink and itchy eyes.
Patients who have allergic conjunctivitis may experience intense itching, tearing and inflammation of the eyes, in addition to sneezing and watery discharge in the nose. Most cases of allergic conjunctivitis can be managed and controlled through the use of allergy eye drops.
Risk factors for pink eye can include the following:
- Exposure to something you are allergic to or allergic conjunctivitis
- Use of contact lenses, particularly extended-wear lenses
- Exposure to someone who is infected with viral or bacterial conjunctivitis