Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is a form of eye infection of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid. This layer (the conjunctiva) protects the white of your eye (the sclera). When a person has conjunctivitis, the blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed. Pink eye can make the white of the eye appear pink while causing itchiness of the eyes, a feeling of grit in the eyes, excessive tearing, and discharge from the eyes that can dry and become crusty. While many forms of conjunctivitis are mild, some forms are persistent and require treatment from an eye doctor. The method of treatment of conjunctivitis depends on the type and severity, and your eye doctor may recommend different treatments depending on the cause of pink eye.
Viral conjunctivitis is the most common form of pink eye, as it is highly transmissible. The viruses that cause this type of pink eye can be spread through contact of the eye with any infected surface. While this is most commonly hand-to-eye contact, a person can also get viral conjunctivitis from using infected items such as makeup brushes, pillowcases, or other items that may come into contact with the eyes. You might also get viral conjunctivitis from another person if you are exposed to their infected water droplets, such as from a sneeze or cough. This type of pink eye can spread from your nose to your eyes and may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Viral conjunctivitis can also be caused by other serious or long-term viruses, such as herpes simplex or varicella-zoster virus.
The majority of cases of viral conjunctivitis are relatively mild and may clear up on their own within 2 weeks. Although less common, viral conjunctivitis can take up to 3 weeks for symptoms to decrease. If conjunctivitis lasts for more than 2 weeks, you should visit an eye doctor to see if an antiviral medication is recommended. Viral conjunctivitis caused by serious or long-term viruses may require treatment prescribed by your eye doctor.
This is another form of pink eye that is highly contagious and transfers in the same ways viral conjunctivitis does. Although this form of conjunctivitis can occur in both eyes at once, it is often only in one eye. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection of the mucus membrane of the eye
While bacterial conjunctivitis will sometimes naturally resolve within 2 to 5 days, other times it will last for longer or present serious symptoms that require antibiotic eye drops. If your eyes are secreting white pus, if you are immuno-compromised, or if a serious form of bacterial infection is suspected, your eye doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops as well as a follow–up appointment.
This type of pink eye is a reaction caused by allergies. Allergic conjunctivitis is most commonly triggered in people who have pollen or animal dander-based allergies. People with allergic conjunctivitis typically will experience relief from their conjunctivitis symptoms when they are no longer around the allergen.
Since it is not always an option to leave the environment causing allergic conjunctivitis, your eye doctor will likely recommend allergy medications to help reduce your reaction. These medications can be either in the form of pills or eye drops. While some forms of generic allergy medication are offered over the counter, others require a prescription from your eye doctor.
If you have any form of pink eye, it is best to visit a Calgary eye doctor. While you may have your suspicions about the type of pink eye you have, an eye doctor will be able to determine exactly what type of conjunctivitis you have and how to treat it. If you have frequently occurring pink eye, this should be discussed and addressed with a professional eye doctor so they can find a medication that works to reduce your pink eye symptoms. At My Optometrist in Calgary, our team will work to relieve any current pink eye symptoms while determining any causes for recurring conjunctivitis. To book an eye exam with one of our eye doctors, contact My Optometrist at one of our three locations at Health First in SE Calgary, Sunridge in NE Calgary, or Three Hills, AB. You can also call us or fill out the online contact form.
Q: Does pink eye only occur in children?
A: No, this is one of the common pink eye myths. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis tends to affect children more than adults because children are often around a large group of people (their classmates) every day and are exposed to viruses from their peers. Children also tend to pay less attention to personal hygiene and are likely to get bacteria in their eyes.
Q: Is it possible that my symptoms seem like pink eye but might really be a different eye condition?
A: Yes, other eye conditions may also cause similar symptoms. Your Calgary optometrist can test for, diagnose, and treat conjunctivitis or determine if there is another cause for your symptoms. It is important to book an appointment as soon as you experience any pain in your eyes, are noticing a sensitivity to light, are experiencing blurred vision, and/or notice any redness in one or both eyes.
Q: My allergic conjunctivitis gets worse every spring. Why is this and can I do anything about it?
A: It’s very common for allergic conjunctivitis to flare up in the spring when there are more pollutants in the air compared to other seasons. To learn more about pollutants that may be triggering your allergic conjunctivitis, read Does Springtime Make Your Dry Eyes Worse. For treatment options, contact a Calgary eye doctor at My Optometrist and consider using lubricating eye drops for temporary relief.
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