Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an eye infection that causes your eyes to swell, become red, or feel itchy. It’s one of the most common eye problems for people of all ages.
You can usually treat pink eye at home, but how do you know when you should visit your eye doctor? Keep reading to learn more about the causes of pink eye, how to tell if your symptoms are severe and when you should seek emergency eye care.
What Is Pink Eye?
Simply put, pink eye is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. There are lots of small blood vessels in the conjunctiva, and when they become inflamed, they make the whites of your eyes appear reddish or pink.
What Causes Pink Eye?
A bacterial or viral infection commonly causes pink eye, but it can also be caused by:
- Allergens such as pollen, dust mites & molds
- Irritants such as chlorine, makeup & dust
- Contact wear or contact solutions
Types of Pink Eye
There are four main types of pink eye: viral, bacterial, allergic & irritant.
Viral pink eye can be spread through the air and are very contagious. It is often associated with colds and upper airway infections.
Bacterial pink eye is caused by bacteria. Unlike viral pink eye, bacterial pink eye is not spread through the air and is instead spread by direct contact.
Allergies can cause pink eye when an allergen gets into the eye. Allergic pink eye is not contagious.
Irritant or Chemical Conjunctivitis
Irritant or chemical pink eye is similar to allergic pink eye as it is not contagious. Exposure to an irritant or chemical, such as chlorine from a swimming pool or eye makeup, can cause this type of pink eye.
Symptoms & Risk Factors
Because there are many different types of pink eye that you may be affected by, the symptoms and risk factors cover a wide range. Here are some of the most common symptoms and risk factors associated with pink eye.
The most common symptoms of pink eye are:
- Pink or red color in the white of the eyes
- Eye swelling
- Watery eyes
- Itching, irritation, or burning
- Watery or thick eye discharge
- Crusting of eyelids or eyelashes, especially in the morning
Anyone can get pink eye, but you may be at a higher risk if you:
- Are exposed to allergens
- Are exposed to someone infected with the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis
- Use contact lenses regularly
When to See Your Eye Doctor
You should see an eye doctor if you have any of the above symptoms of pink along with any of the following:
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Worsening symptoms
- Blurred vision
- Severe eye redness
- A weakened immune system due to other medical conditions or treatments
Although most cases of pink eye go away without a doctor’s care, if you are experiencing any severe symptoms, or if your symptoms do not go away on their own, you may require emergency eye care.
If you have a newborn with symptoms of pink eye, they should be seen by an eye doctor immediately.
How Is Pink Eye Treated?
Usually, you can treat pink eye symptoms at home without the help of your eye doctor. Here are some tips that may help relieve symptoms caused by pink eye:
- Gently wipe your eyes with a wet cloth, ensuring that you don’t use the same cloth on both eyes
- Apply a cold or warm compress to your eyes
- Apply artificial eye drops
If you see an eye doctor about your pink eye, they can help you identify which type of pink eye you are suffering from. Depending on the type of pink eye, your eye doctor may recommend any of the following treatments:
- Antibiotic eye drops or ointments
- Antiviral medication
- Allergy medications or eye drops that include antihistamines
The best way to know which treatment option is best for you and your infection is by booking an eye appointment with your eye doctor.
If you are unsure whether you should see your eye doctor regarding your pink eye, contact us today.