Pink Eye is also known as Conjunctivitis or Madras eye. It is the inflammation of the inner surface of the eyelid, or the outer layer of the eye. The diffused pinkness of the transparent membranes, or conjunctiva, is what has given this inflammation its common name. Pink Eye is often caused by an infection or by an allergic reaction and the membranes react. It is a most uncomfortable experience, and the eye is often very itchy. Other symptoms include redness and watering of the eye, and the eyelid may swell and close. Looking at bright light may sometimes be painful if the eyes are very sore and irritated.
Understanding the causes of this inflammation helps to treat the symptoms and prevent the reoccurrence of Pink Eye. The most common cause of conjunctivitis is a bacterial infection and it usually affects just one eye initially. There are various different types of bacteria which may cause this problem. Bacterial pink eye is often diagnosed by a sticky discharge from the eye which may be slightly yellow or green. It is the bacteria which cause the eye to produce this discharge and eyelids may stick together after sleeping. The bacteria cause a gritty irritation in the eye, giving the feeling that there is a foreign object in the eye. Bathing the eye with warm water will help remove the grittiness and soothe the irritation. Bacterial pink eye is very contagious and can be passed on by contact. In serious cases it is wise to consult a doctor who can correctly diagnose and treat the condition. Antibiotics are not required and often bacterial pink eye will disappear after 4-7 days.
Viral conjunctivitis is more often associated with the person suffering from a cold. The Pink Eye symptoms will be accompanied by a sore throat and a runny nose which is typical of the common cold. The eyes will give out a watery discharge and they will feel sore and itchy. Once again, the infection will begin in one eye and may quickly spread to the other eye. Viral pink eye has a more pink hue to the affected eye, rather than the redness of some other infections. It can only be conclusively diagnosed by taking a swab and examining it under a microscope. Relief can be given by using eye drops, or artificial tears and by using warm compresses on the eyes. To avoid spreading the infection, try to avoid touching your eyes and do not share towels and wash cloths. Wash your hands frequently and disinfect surfaces and door knobs. This type of conjunctivitis may take 7-10 days for the symptoms to clear.
The main symptom of this type of pink eye is acute itching and may be accompanied by some swelling of the eyelid and sneezing. It is often a reaction to pollen or animal dander. Antihistamines prescribed by a doctor may be the best long-term treatment. Bathing the eyes with running water may also bring temporary relief.
Irritant or Toxic Conjunctivitis
This is the only type of conjunctivitis when severe pain may be present. This type of conjunctivitis is caused by a splash of chemical, household cleaner, smoke, spray or irritant getting into the eye. The eye will be very red and may feel particularly irritable when looking extremely far up or far down. With this type of conjunctivitis there is no discharge and minimal itchiness. If the irritation is caused by chemicals or burns, wash the eyes with a saline solution, especially beneath the lids. Chemical injuries should be treated as a medical emergency to avoid permanent damage. Wash with copious amounts of water and consult a doctor.
If pain, blurred vision and extreme sensitivity to light persist, it is unlikely that the cause is pink eye, and medical attention should be sought for a professional diagnosis.
Treatment of Pink Eye
Although conjunctivitis usually clears without treatment, serious cases may require medical attention. Treatment may include pouring cool water over the face to wash the eyes in the case of an allergic reaction. Eye drops or artificial tears can be used to soothe the symptoms and are available over the counter at any pharmacy. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medications depending on the cause of the irritation.