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When to Visit an Eye Doctor For Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

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Close up of eye with pink eye (Conjunctivitis)

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 Conjunctivitis

Viral pink eye can be spread through the air and are very contagious. It is often associated with colds and upper airway infections. 

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

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.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

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. 

Illustration comparison of healthy eye on the left and conjunctivitis eyes on the right

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. 

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of pink eye are:

Risk Factors 

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? 

Home Remedies

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 

Medical Remedies

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:

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. 

Written by Dr. Leslie E. O’Dell

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