If you’ve ever woken up one morning and looked in the mirror to see a glossy, inflamed eye, chances are you’ve had pink eye. But if you haven’t had it before and feel unsure about what the cause and symptoms are, you might not even realize when or if you’ve had it.

Here’s what you need to know about pink eye:

Symptoms

The symptoms include irritation with the white area of the eyes, which end up turning pink or red. They can become swollen around the eyelids, which can leave them sensitive to light. This infection can also increase the amount of tears, cause discharge that crusts over the eyelids, along with itchy or burning sensations. Pink eye can be painful in some cases.

Causes

Pink eye can be caused by a variety of factors. The most common tend to be a virus, such as the cold, allergies such as dust or pollen, smoke, or even chlorine from the pool. It can also develop from exposure to bacteria.

Containing the Infection

This infection is very contagious and can easily spread from one person to another if it’s not carefully contained. If you or someone you know has the infection, it’s important to refrain from sharing any items, such as towels, pillows, or anything else that may have come in contact with the eye. Always make handwashing a priority after touching any area around the eye. If your child develops it, it’s usually best to keep them home away from others until the infection has cleared.

Long-Term Effects

Pink eye is very common, but if left untreated, it can potentially develop into a more serious infection that can be threatening to vision. It usually lasts about seven to ten days, but in some rare cases, it can remain longer. If someone experiences recurring pink eye, it could point to some more serious underlying problems.

Treatment

If you suspect you or someone you know has pink eye, you should make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. They can assess the eyes, determine if the infection is in fact present, and then prescribe eye drops that will help treat the infection and eliminate it.

Pink eye is more common than many people realize. But when it does occur, not many people know exactly what it entails or how to deal with it. But as common as it is, it can develop into a more serious matter if not dealt with properly. Always contact your optometrist if you suspect you or someone you love has it.

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