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Home » Eye Care Services » Your Eye Health » Eye Conditions » Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye infections, especially in children. The infection is an acute inflammation which causes redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, which is the clear mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and the surface of the eye. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies such as pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes. Some forms of pink eye can be highly contagious and easily spread in schools and at home.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Pink eye develops when the conjunctiva or thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the eyelid and the white part of the eye becomes inflamed. Symptoms can occur in one or both eyes and include:

  • Redness in the white part of the eye
  • Itching or burning
  • Discharge
  • Tearing
  • Swollen eyelids and
  • Crusty eyes in the morning

Causes of Pink Eye

There are three main types of pink eye infections: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral Conjunctivitis is usually caused by an adenovirus, the same virus that produces the recognizable red and watery eyes, sore throat, cough and runny nose of the common cold or upper respiratory infection. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious usually spread because of poor hygiene especially a lack of hand washing.

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis usually last from five days to a week but may last longer. Since there is generally no medical treatment for a viral infection you have to wait for the infection to run its course. To avoid spreading the infection to others, it is recommended to stay home from school or work until the symptoms disappear which is usually after 3-5 days or up to a week.

Viral conjunctivitis typically causes a light discharge and very watery, red eyes. To relieve discomfort, you can apply cool compresses to the eyes and artificial tears.

Bacterial Pink Eye

Bacterial pink eye is usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria and is often characterized by a significant amount of yellow, sticky discharge. Also contagious, bacterial pink eye can be picked up from bacteria found anywhere and often spread to the eye by touching them with unclean hands. Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk for bacterial pink eye due to the handling of lenses and unclean contact lens cases.

Treatment is usually administered by antibiotic eye drops which should begin to show improvement after three or four days, however the infection can also resolve itself after a week to 10 days without treatment. If you do use antibiotic drops, you can return to work or school 24 hours after you being treatment.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is not infectious or contagious as it is an allergic reaction to something in the environment such as pollen, pet dander or smoke. Symptoms, which occur in both eyes, include redness, itching and excessive tearing.

The first step in treating allergic conjunctivitis is to remove or avoid the irritant, if possible. Applying cool compresses and artificial tears can help to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be

prescribed. In cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis, topical steroid eye drops are used.

Pink Eye Prevention

In all cases of pink eye, practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent from catching and spreading the infection. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and don’t touch your eyes with your hands, especially if you work with or around small children.

If you have allergies, try to stay indoors on days with a high pollen count and to keep doors and windows closed. Inside the house, clean air duct filters, vacuum and dust frequently to reduce the presence of allergens.

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To our valued patients,

During these challenging times, we feel it’s especially important to keep you informed of what we are doing to keep you safe. The health and safety of our patients is our primary goal. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains fluid and as such we have made the following changes in our clinic as we strive to maintain the highest standards of care for you our patients:

* Modified schedule. Anyone entering the clinic will need an appointment. There will only be one patient allowed in the clinic at one time to ensure social distancing. Other family members are not permitted in. You can continue to call the clinic to make these appointments. Seniors 60 and over will kindly be asked to reschedule for a safer time in the future.

* All patients must sign a form declaring that they do not have a fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose and other flu-like symptoms including aches and pains. They also must declare that they are practicing social distancing in accordance with the Governor of Washington’s mandate.

* All common surfaces will be disinfected in accordance with current guidelines and protocols after each and every patient and before a new patient enters the clinic. This includes instruments and eyeglass frames that have been handled.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Together, we will get through this.

Warmest regards,

Dr. Osborne and staff