Pinkeye or Conjunctivitis refers to the imflammation of conjunctiva, the thin transparent mucous membrane that lines the exposed portion of the eyeballs and inner surface of the eyelids. This disease is very common especially among children. While it's not serious and can clear up in a few days, it can be very contagious. Rapid spread of pinkeye is observed in schools and daycare centers. It will not impair vision if treated immediately.
There are various types of pinkeye:
- viral pinkeye
- allergic pinkeye
- bacterial pinkeye
- ophthalmia neonatorum (neonatal conjunctivitis)
- giant papillary conjunctivitis
Viral Pinkeye, the most contagious type, usually begins only in one eye and produces watery discharge. It takes a few days before the other eye becomes inflamed. With this one, there's a swollen lymph node that may be felt in the front part of the ear.
Allergic Pinkeye brings redness, tearing and itching in both eyes. Sometimes, the symptoms of itchy and runny nose are also experienced.
Bacterial Pinkeye infects both eyes and causes heavy discharge of mucus and pus.
Ophthalmia Neonatorum, also known as neonatal conjunctivitis, is the more severe form of bacterial conjunctivitis (pinkeye). It's common in newborn babies. Their eyes get contaiminated during delivery while passing through the birth canal, if the mother is infected with either Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis. It requires immediate treatment to prevent vision damage and blindness. Eyedrops containing erythromycin prevent the condition.
Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis is the pinkeye caused by long-tern use of contact lenses.
Pinkeye is caused by an irritant, either bacterial or viral.
It can also be due to chemical exposure or allergic reaction to:
To treat this condition, it's imperative to see an ophthalmologist right away. He/she will prescribe an ointment or eyedrop that will control the swelling and pain. It will also help prevent the spread of infection.
Commonly prescribed are:
- ocular decongestants
- anti-allergy medicines
- anti-inflammatory medicines
- antibiotic eyedrops or ointments
- oral and intravenous antibiotics:
If the virus that caused conjunctivitis is the same virus that causes a sexually transmitted disease, oral and intravenous antibiotics will be used.
Hospital admission, intravenous antibiotics and supportive care are necessary for the severe cases of pinkeye.
- One of the first things to do is to prevent the spread of the infection not only to the other eye (if only one eye is infected) but also to other people, since this condition is very contagious.
- It's important to limit close contact with other people until you feel better.
- Pillows, towels, and washcloths should be kept separately so other people won't use yours.
- It's best to use disposable paper towels to prevent spread of infection.
- Wash and change the pillowcase everyday until you're fully recovered.
- Never use your fingers to touch your infected eye.
- Don't wear and don't share eye makeup.
- Don't wear your contact lenses; wait until the infection is gone.
- If there are tears or discharge, use tissue to wipe and dispose of this right away.
- You should also make it a habit to wash your hands thoroughly every time before you touch the area around your eye.
- To alleviate the swelling, put a warm compress on the infected eye for a few minutes, three to four times daily. This will also lighten the pain and remove the crust that would have formed on the eyelashes.
- Use over-the-counter artificial tears to ease irritation and itching.