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Pink, Itchy Eyes? Perhaps it’s Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is a frequently encountered eye problem, especially with kids. Pink eye can be caused by bacteria, a virus or irritants including chlorine in swimming pools, ingredients found in cosmetics, and pollen, or other chemicals. Some types of pink eye can be highly contagious and quickly cause a conjunctivitis outbreak in school and in the home or office.  Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria and viruses are infections, allergic conjunctivitis is not an infection, but an inflammatory response to allergens like pollen, pet dander and mold.

Bacterial conjunctivitis symptoms are redness and yellow discharge especially in the morning, in viral infections the discharge is watery, and in allergic conjunctivitis the eyes are itchy.

Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by a virus similar to that which causes the sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of pink eye can stick around for a week to two and like other viruses usually cannot be treated with medication. To relieve discomfort, compresses applied to the eyes will give you some relief. If symptoms are severe, vision is affected or the symptoms persist, call to schedule a same day appointment since in some cases viral conjunctivitis can be treated.

The bacterial form, which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus, is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops. Most often one should see an improvement after just a few days of antibiotic drops, but always make sure to follow the full prescription dosage to stop the infection from coming back.

Both the viral and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are contagious, so maintain excellent hygiene, frequent hand washing and avoid using communal towels or pillowcases. To avoid spreading the infection to others stay home from school or work until symptoms resolve.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. It is an allergic response. First of all, to treat allergic conjunctivitis the irritant itself must be removed. Try cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, a prescription of a mast cell stabilizer with antihistamines is prescribed with great success in controlling symptoms. You can greatly reduce your chances of getting bacterial and viral conjunctivitis by frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your eyes. Be sure to mention to your doctor if you have allergic conjunctivitis symptoms for help in treating this annoying problem.