Do you feel like one of your eyes is super irritated today? Does it look a little redder than your other eye? You may have conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye.
What is pink eye?
Pink eye is a common condition contracted by about 3 million Americans each year. Conjunctivitis occurs when you experience inflammation of the conjuctiva—a very thin, clear layer of tissue which rests along the inside of your eyelid and covers most of the white part of your eye. An inflamed conjuctiva causes your blood vessels to become more visible, creating a pinkish appearance.
What causes pink eye?
Generally, conjunctivitis is a bacterial or viral infection, but pink eye can also be caused by an allergic reaction. If your pink eye is a result of a viral infection, you may experience a sore throat, cold, or respiratory infection simultaneously.
How do I know if I have pink eye?
The inflammation of your conjuctiva may cause some or all of the following symptoms:
- Itchiness, burning, or painful sensations around your eye
- Eye watering
- Discharge of fluid which creates a crust along your eyelid (your eye may feel like it’s stuck shut when you first wake up)
- Swelling around the eye
- Feeling like something is stuck in your eye
- Sensitivity to light
- A swollen or tender lymph node directly in front of your ear
- Discomfort in your contact lens, or inability to keep the lens in your eye
If you have most or all of the symptoms listed, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor so you can be properly diagnosed and treated.
What do I do if I have pink eye?
Unfortunately, determining the cause of any specific case of pink eye is difficult because the symptoms are very similar regardless of the cause. Many times, pink eye fades away on its own, but your eye doctor can diagnose and give you information on treating your conjunctivitis.
You can also try these home remedies recommended by the American Academy of Ophthamology:
- Rinse out your eyes with saline solution.
- Use warm compresses on the infected eye. You can create a compress by using a clean, lint-free cloth, soaking it in hot water, and then wringing out excess water. Make sure you use a clean cloth each time you do this, so the infection doesn’t spread.
- Use over-the-counter pain killers if the pain is severe.
- If you believe the pink eye is a result of exposure to something you’re allergic to, use your normal allergy medication.
How can I prevent pink eye?
The best ways to prevent pink eye are to keep up with your personal hygiene, and make sure your family and colleagues do as well. Wash your hands often, especially after going to the bathroom and before handling food. Use liquid hand soap when possible, as the build-up of germs is less likely to settle inside a bottle as it is in a soap dish. Avoid touching your eyes with your hands, and avoid exposing your eyes to allergens which affect you, such as pollinating plants.
You can also ensure you keep a clean environment which doesn’t allow build-up of harmful germs. Change your bed sheets, towels, and other linens every few days, and don’t share any these items if they touch others’ eyes. If you use eye makeup, do not share these products with anyone else. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your office, and don’t forget to clean surfaces which are frequently touched, such as door knobs, light switches, and your keyboard.
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