An inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that covers your eyelid and lines the white-colored part of your eyeball is called a pink eye (conjunctivitis). When the white part of your eyes appears red or pink, this is because the small blood vessels in the conjunctiva have become inflamed, and so they have become more visible.
This is mainly caused by a bacterial or viral infection, an allergy. In infants, its caused by an incompletely opened tear duct.
The pink eye problem doesn’t affect eyesight at any given point. But it is always irritating. When treated the itchy feeling is minimized. Pink eye is contagious thus early diagnosis can help prevent the spread and allow early treatment.
Some of the pink eyes symptoms are;
- Both eyes might turn red.
- Discomfort in one or both eyes
- A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
- A discharge that forms a yellow or white crust during the night that may make it difficult for you to open your eye(s) when you wake up.
- Heavy or light tears from the affected eyes(s)
When to see a doctor
Apart from a pink eye infection, other factors can cause redness of the eye(s). These may cause pain in the eye, feeling that something is stuck in your eye (foreign body sensation), blurry vision, and light sensitivity (tears forming when you attempt to see in bright light). Seek medical attention if you have the signs.
Wearing lenses is bad when you are diagnosed with pink eye symptoms. If the symptoms continue to adverse ask the doctor for some recommendations.
Pink eyes are caused by;
- A splash of harmful chemical in the eye
- A foreign object in the eye
- In newborns, one or more blocked tear ducts
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis
Pink eyes are in most cases caused by a virus.
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can both occur in addition to colds or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a sore throat. Sharing lenses can also cause bacterial conjunctivitis.
Both the problems are extremely contagious. They can be spread through direct or indirect contact with the liquid that drains from the eye of someone infected. One or both eyes of others may be affected.
This affects both eyes equally and it is initiated by an allergy causing substance such as pollen. In response to allergens, the body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This antibody triggers special cells called mast cells in the mucous lining of your eyes and airways to release inflammatory substances, including histamines. Your body’s release of histamine can produce several allergy signs and symptoms, including red or pink eyes.
If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you may experience intense itching, tearing and inflammation of the eyes as well as sneezing and watery nasal discharge. Most allergic conjunctivitis can be controlled with allergy eyedrops. If the problem persists seek medical attention.
Conjunctivitis resulting from irritation
Irritation from a chemical splash or foreign object in your eye can also cause conjunctivitis. Sometimes flushing and cleaning the eye to rid it of the chemical or object causes redness and irritation. Signs and symptoms, which may include watery eyes and a mucous discharge, usually clear up on their own within about a day.
If initial flushing doesn’t ease the symptoms, or if the chemical is a caustic one such as lye, you need to be seen by your doctor or eye specialist as soon as possible. A chemical splash into the eye can even cause permanent eye damage. The use of goggles when handling chemicals is hence necessary. Persistent symptoms could also indicate that you still have the foreign body in your eye or possibly a scratch over the cornea or the covering of the eyeball (sclera).
Risk factors for pink eye include:
- Exposure to substances you are allergic to.
- Contact with someone infected with the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis
- Sharing lenses especially extended-wear lenses
The pink eye cause swelling in the cornea that can affect vision. Prompt evaluation and treatment by your doctor for eye pain, a feeling that something is stuck in your eye (foreign body sensation), blurred vision or light sensitivity can reduce the risk of long-term complications.
Preventing the spread of pink eye
Practice good hygiene to control the spread of pink eye. For instance:
- Don’t touch affected eyes with your hands.
- Wash your hands often.
- Use a clean towel and washcloth daily.
- Don’t share towels or washcloths.
- Change your pillowcases often.
- Throw away your eye cosmetics, such as mascara.
- Don’t share eye cosmetics or personal eye-care items.
Note: Pink eye is less contagious compared to cold. You can continue with your normal duties but make sure to observe hygiene at high levels.
Preventing pink eye in newborns
The bacteria of the pink eye are found in the birth canal for pregnant women. This makes the newborns more vulnerable. These bacteria have no signs in the mother. These bacteria can cause infants to develop a serious form of conjunctivitis known as ophthalmia neonatorum, this does not happen always. For this reason, an antibiotic ointment is applied to every newborn’s eyes, this is just a precaution measure to protect the newborn.