What is Pink Eye?

Conjunctivitis, commonly called “pink eye” is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of the eyeball.  It has tiny blood vessels within the membrane that become inflamed and enlarge with inflammation or irritation, and causes the eye to turn red or pink. Many sources can cause conjunctivitis with some of the most common being bacteria, viruses, allergies, and environmental irritants.

Infectious causes of conjunctivitis are bacteria and viruses. Bacterial conjunctivitis often produces a yellow-green discharge, and viral conjunctivitis often has a watery discharge. Both types are very contagious. Therefore, it is important to wash your hands, especially after touching your eyes. You should also discard or wash anything used to wipe the eyes, such as a towel, washcloth or handkerchief.

Antibiotic or combination antibiotic/steroid eye drops are prescribed for bacterial conjunctivitis. There is no treatment for most cases of viral conjunctivitis. Drops may be recommended to help provide some relief from the symptoms, but the virus needs time to run its course, usually over a period of about 2-3 weeks. If it is determined by your eye doctor that your viral conjunctivitis is caused by the herpes simplex virus, then antiviral medications are used.

Allergic conjunctivitis can make the eyes very itchy and watery, or may just cause a chronic redness. It can be accompanied with other common allergy reactions such as sneezing and a watery nasal discharge. Some cases may respond to systemic allergy medications, but others need a specific allergy drop. There are several over-the-counter and prescription eye drops that can provide relief.

There are several eye diseases which also produce a red eye and can lead to vision loss if not recognized and treated. Therefore, to avoid confusing these diseases with conjunctivitis makes it very important to call us for an appointment right away. We will diagnose your specific case of red eye and prescribe the proper treatment.