What You Need to Know About Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis, sometimes referred to as pink eye, is quite common. So common that you’ve probably had some experience with it at some point in your life. Maybe you’ve had pink eye yourself, or you know someone who has had pink eye, or maybe your child currently has pink eye.

Here’s everything that you need to know about pink eye.

What is pink eye?

Pink eye is one of the most common eye conditions among both children and adults, and it’s usually mild and easy to treat. While it is usually harmless, pink eye can be highly contagious. The terms “pink eye” and “conjunctivitis” are often used interchangeably, even by medical professionals. However, some doctors might use the term “pink eye” to refer to a specific type of conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis simply means that the conjunctiva of the eye is inflamed. The conjunctiva is a clear mucous membrane that covers the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. Although the conjunctiva is clear, it contains blood vessels. When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, these blood vessels dilate. Conjunctivitis can be cause by many different things; however, the term pink eye may sometimes refer specifically to viral conjunctivitis.

How do you get pink eye?

There are four main causes of conjunctivitis, or pink eye: virus, bacteria, allergens, irritants. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish which of these caused pink eye in a specific individual because the symptoms are often the same among all the causes.

Anyone can get pink eye, but children, students, teachers, day care workers, etc. are at a higher risk of contracting the condition.

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

Pink eye symptoms can vary depending on the type and the severity of the inflammation. Pink eye symptoms may include:

  • Red or pink tint to the eyes
  • Swelling
  • Watery eyes
  • Mucous discharge
  • Itchy, irritated, or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Increased sensitivity to light

How can you prevent pink eye?

Conjunctivitis cause by allergens or irritants isn’t contagious. However bacterial or viral conjunctivitis can be spread quite easily. Practicing good hygiene like washing your hands and not touching your eyes or face is a good way to help reduce the spread of pink eye. Also, avoid sharing glasses, contact lenses or cases, make up, pillows, etc.

How do you treat pink eye?

More often than not, pink eye will go away on its own after a few days without treatment. This isn’t always the case, however, and you or your child’s conjunctivitis could be more serious. So how do you know when to see a doctor for conjunctivitis? Here’s what to look for:

  • A little discomfort from pink eye is to be expected, by if you experience moderate to sever pain, consult a physician.
  • Your pink eye does not go away, or appear to be improving, after a week.
  • You have trouble seeing.
  • You experience intense redness in your eye.
  • You have a weakened immune system.

Really, any time you are in doubt about pink eye – or any aspect of your health – you should talk to your doctor. Find a doctor and schedule your appointment today!