What You Need to Know About Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an eye infection that can cause itching and burning, along with a discharge and swollen eyelids. Many forms of bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious and are easily spread through contact. Our doctors can provide gentle eye care to treat conjunctivitis at our Austin, TX, practice. Their care can improve your comfort, reduce the length of the infection, and prevent the spread of the infection.
Symptoms of Pink Eye
The symptoms of pink eye are fairly easy to recognize. If you develop these signs, you should make an appointment so your eye doctor can properly diagnose the type of conjunctivitis and recommend an appropriate treatment. Conjunctivitis symptoms can occur in one or both eyes and may include:
- The sensation that you have something in your eye
- Burning or itching feeling
- Excessive eye watering
- Swollen eyelids
- White areas of eye appearing pink or red
- An increase in sensitivity to light
- Eye discharge
Causes of Conjunctivitis
Pink eye can affect one or both eyes at the same time, and there are three primary causes of the condition.
This form of conjunctivitis is common in patients who suffer from seasonal allergies. Pink eye can develop if you come in contact with an allergen that triggers a reaction in the eyes. Another form of allergic conjunctivitis, giant papillary conjunctivitis, is caused by the chronic presence of a foreign object in the eye. If you wear hard contacts, do not replace contacts frequently, have exposed sutures, or wear a prosthetic eye, you are more susceptible to this form of pink eye.
- Bacterial: Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and is most common in children, but can affect many adults as well. This infection is typically caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal, bacteria from our own bodies. You can contract this form of pink eye from insects, using contaminated eye makeup, contact with others, and touching your eyes with unwashed hands. Sharing contacts or eye makeup, or not properly cleaning your contact lenses can also result in a bacterial infection.
- Viral: Viral pink eye is usually contracted through viruses associated with colds. This form of conjunctivitis is caught after being exposed to a cough or sneeze of someone who has an upper respiratory tract infection. You can also contract viral pink eye from your own respiratory infection.
This form of pink eye is caused by exposure to irritants such as chlorinated swimming pools, noxious chemicals, or pollution.
The goal of pink eye treatment is to ease your discomfort, reduce any inflammation, eliminate the infection, and, if contagious, prevent the spread of the infection to others.
How Pink Eye is Treated
Your specific treatment will depend on the type of conjunctivitis you have.
- Allergic: You should remove or avoid the allergen if possible. In mild cases, you may find relief with a cold compress and eye drops. If your case is more severe, our doctors may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication, antihistamines, or topical steroid eye drops.
- Bacterial: We will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments. You should see an improvement in your symptoms within a few days, but to prevent infection from returning or spreading, you must complete the entire course of treatment.
- Viral: Antibiotics cannot treat a virus. You may find relief from a cold compress and eye drops. In more severe cases, we can prescribe topical steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation. It may take up to two to three weeks for the infection to dissipate.
- Chemical: We recommend flushing your eyes with a saline solution, and may also prescribe topical steroid eye drops. Some chemical injuries are severe medical emergencies and can result in scarring and vision loss if left untreated. You should flush your eyes with water for several minutes and then seek medical attention right away.
Seek Effective Treatment
The goal of pink eye treatment is to ease your discomfort, reduce any inflammation, eliminate the infection, and, if contagious, prevent the spread of the infection to others. If you suspect you or your child has pink eye, contact us today to schedule an appointment.