Pink Eye – The Gift that Keeps on Giving

We teach our children that sharing is important. We want them to become adults who are giving. There is one exception to the sharing rule: sharing illness. This includes pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis. Pink eye is the most obvious symptom of conjunctivitis, which causes the eye to turn pink, hence the name. Pink eye is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva which causes the blood vessels to become prominent creating the rosy hue found in the eye.

Pink eye symptoms include pink or redness of one or both eyes, foreign body feeling (grit) in eye, eye discharge and itchiness in one or both eyes. Pink eye can last several weeks. It is important to seek medical help if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above. Treatment for pink eye is typically antibiotic eye drops. Pink eye is often discovered where children congregate such as schools, daycare centers and camps.

There are several forms of conjunctivitis, a couple of which are not typically contagious.

The contagious forms of pink eye are typically bacterial or viral infections. They can be found in adults, but most often affect children. It can be spread by coughing, sneezing, sharing items such as pencils, crayons, tables and hand towels. Good hygiene is especially important when pink eye is present. Disinfectant sprays can help kill the germs that cause the infection.

The non-contagious forms of pink eye can be caused by allergens (dust, animal dander and pollen) and chemicals (smoke, household cleaners, sprays and even smog). Both typically resolve within a couple of days.

Contact lens wearers are at an increased risk for developing pink eye due to poor hygiene when handling the lenses.  If someone in your household develops pink eye, it is important to take preventative measures to minimize your risk for getting it too. Contact lens wearers should disinfect their lenses and their storage case. If pink eye is discovered, it is important to not wear contact lenses until the eyes are cleared up. If disposable lenses are worn, it is important to use a new pair once the infection clears.

Pink eye is one of those infections that most experience at least once in their lives. It is important to take necessary preventative measures to reduce the risk of exposure and to seek treatment once discovered.