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Red, Itchy Eyes? It Could Be Conjunctivitis

Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is a frequently encountered eye infection, particularly with kids. It can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies to ingredients in cosmetics, chlorine in pools, and pollen, or other substances, which touch the eyes. Certain kinds of pink eye are highly transmittable and quickly infect many people in close proximity such as in schools and in the office or home.

Conjunctivitis ensues when the thin clear layer of tissue lining the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. A good clue that you have the infection is if you notice eye itching, discharge, redness or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three basic categories: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by a similar virus to that which makes us have those recognizable red, watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. The uncomfortable symptoms of viral conjunctivitis can stick around for a week to two and then will clear up on their own. Applying compresses to your eyes in a dark room may provide some relief. Viral pink eye is contagious until it's gone, so meanwhile, practice excellent hygiene, remove any discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. Children who have viral pink eye will need to be kept home for three days to a week until it clears up.

The bacterial form which is caused by infections such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is most often treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. You should see the symptoms disappearing within three or four days of treatment, but make sure to adhere to the complete antibiotic prescription to stop pink eye from returning.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. It occurs more commonly in individuals who already suffer from seasonal allergies or allergies to substances such as pets or dust. The allergic symptoms in the eyes may be just one aspect of their overall allergic reaction. First of all, when treating allergic pink eye, the irritant itself needs to be removed. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the pink eye persists for a long time, topical steroid eye drops could be prescribed.

With any form pink eye, practicing proper hygiene is the first rule of thumb. Try not to touch your eyes, and if you do, make sure to wash your hands well.

Pink eye should always be examined by a qualified optometrist in order to determine the type and best course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Keep in mind the sooner you begin treatment, the less likelihood you have of giving conjunctivitis to loved ones or suffering longer than you have to.