Preventing and Treating ‘Pink Eye’

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July 18, 2016

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The most common form of conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” results from the viruses that cause a common cold. And just as a cold must run its course, in most cases so should viral conjunctivitis.

However, if you think you have pink eye, you should still see a physician for an evaluation, says Jose Soza, M.D., a primary care physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “A proper diagnosis will prompt people to take precautions to stop the spread from person to person,” Dr. Soza said.

Bacterial Pink Eye Puts You at Higher Risk

Pink eye also can be caused by irritants and allergens as well as bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and strains associated with gonorrhea or chlamydia. Irritant-induced and allergic conjunctivitis are not contagious. Like viral pink eye, bacterial pink eye is highly contagious, and if untreated, may have a higher risk of complications, including cornea scarring, Dr. Soza cautions.

“Antibiotics in the form of eye drops, ointment or pills will be prescribed to treat bacterial conjunctivitis,” Dr. Soza said. “People should seek urgent care if they have pink eye with eyeball pain, blurred vision or pre-existing eye conditions that may put them at risk for complications or severe infection.”

The symptoms of pink eye usually include:

  • Redness or swelling
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching, irritation, burning
  • White, yellow or green discharge that forms a crust on the eyelids or eyelashes
  • Increased sensitivity to light

If you wear contact lenses, you should stop using them as soon as any of these suspicious signs begin. Avoiding the use of eye makeup may relieve symptoms and promote healing, says Dr. Soza. He also recommends consulting a doctor before using over-the-counter eye drops to treat pink eye because they may worsen the condition or cause chemical conjunctivitis.

Preventing the Spread of Pink Eye

To reduce the risk of contracting or spreading pink eye, follow these simple self-care steps:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Maintain proper hygiene.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
  • Avoid sharing eye and face makeup, makeup brushes, contact lenses and containers, eyeglasses, washcloths, towels and pillow cases.
  • Clean contact lenses and containers properly.
  • Stay home from daycare, school or work until viral or bacterial pink eye has cleared.

“Conjunctivitis that is contagious spreads easily among children because they often do not take the proper precautions,” Dr. Soza explained. “In a daycare or school setting, children share everything – including pink eye.”

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