Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a very common eye problem that usually affects people in the school environment – preschoolers, school children, teachers, and daycare workers. The blood vessels in the thin clear eye covering, call the conjunctiva, become inflamed and dilate, causing bloodshot eyes. Here are the causes, treatment, and prevention suggestions for pink eye:

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus. The eye becomes pink or red, watery, itchy, and sensitive to light. It can affect one or both eyes. There is no medical cure, but it will usually clear up on its own within a few days. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching the eyes. Therefore, if you are infected, you should stay home until the symptoms clear. No medication is necessary, but you can apply a cool and damp washcloth to your eyes to relieve some of the itchiness and wateriness.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection, and can become quite serious if left untreated. You should visit the eye doctor right away if you notice the main symptom, a yellow-green sticky discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis is contagious and can be spread by touching the eyes or coming into contact with the discharge. Your eye doctor will prescribe antibiotic ointment or eye drops to treat the condition.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an irritant like pollen, dander, or dust. It causes watery, itchy, and/or burning sensations in one or both eyes. It only affects the allergy sufferer and is not contagious. It can usually be avoided or shortened with the use of allergy medications. If you know you are prone to allergic conjunctivitis, speak with your doctor or allergist about a prevention plan.

Prevention

Do not share personal items like face cloths, tissues, or contact lenses with anyone else. Wash cloths and dispose of tissues after use. Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Try not to touch or rub your eyes, especially if you have pink eye. Wash your hands properly and keep a disinfectant handy. Clean surfaces, door knobs etc. with an antibacterial cleaner. If you do get infected, stay home to keep others from catching the virus or bacteria that caused your infection.

Now you know more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the main forms of pink eye. Follow the recommended prevention steps and you can keep eyes safe from this uncomfortable condition.

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