Is it Pink Eye?
Flu season is in full swing with the flu and conjunctivitis often referred to as pink eye often goes hand in hand with a cold or flu. While it might sound like a minor inconvenience, pink eye can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, highly contagious. Nonetheless, proper handwashing can be the key to not spreading those nasty germs.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is caused by inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and helps to keep the eyelid and eyeball moist. The condition can be caused by bacteria, a virus, allergens, or other irritants. The same viruses that cause colds and the flu—such as adenovirus, enterovirus, and influenza virus—can also cause pink eye.
Cold and flu viruses can cause pink eye by traveling through the tear duct from the nose to the eye. However, most pink eye cases are caused by failing to wash your hands after you blow your nose or if you unknowingly touch a surface or object that someone with the flu or a cold has recently touched. If you then rub your eyes, you’re transferring the virus or bacteria to your eyes.
- Viral Conjunctivitis is the most common form of pink eye and is often associated with the same viruses responsible for the common cold. It is highly contagious and can spread through respiratory droplets or by touching contaminated surfaces.
- Bacterial Conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus and is a result of exposure to contaminated hands, towels, or other personal items. It is also highly contagious and may cause more severe symptoms than viral conjunctivitis.
- Allergic Conjunctivitis is associated with allergens like pollen, pet dander, or dust mites leading to pink eye symptoms. Unlike viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, this type is not contagious.
- Irritant Conjunctivitis occurs with exposure to irritants like smoke, chlorine, or harsh chemicals can cause irritation and redness in the eyes, resembling pink eye symptoms. This form of conjunctivitis is also not contagious.
Symptoms that present with conjunctivitis include:
- Gritty feeling in the eye or both eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Itchy or burning sensation
- Discharge and/or swollen eyelids
- Pink Discoloration
- Sensitivity to light
Various forms of conjunctivitis are contagious so take these steps to avoid “sharing the joy” with others:
- Practice good hygiene and teach your children how to properly wash their hands.
- Don’t touch your face with your hands.
- Avoid using cosmetics and eye care items and discard those currently used (particularly mascara) when first diagnosed with conjunctivitis to prevent spreading the infection.
- Change towels and washcloths daily and avoid sharing with others.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses and dispose of those used at the start of the infection.
Pink eye can last from 10 days to two weeks, but there are several treatment options available depending on the cause and severity that can help alleviate your symptoms. Topical steroid drops and/or antibiotics based on which type of conjunctivitis you have will be used to treat conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis much like the common cold must run the course and only in severe cases are steroids used.
The best course of action is to schedule an appointment with your optometrist to properly diagnose and treat your infection. At Bissell Eye Care, we also have tests that examine the optic nerve to ensure there’s not an underlying problem that can become more serious. If in doubt, don’t delay – have your eyes checked for infection.
About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening and Saturday appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more information, visit bisselleyecare.com or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.