"Pink eye" is a term that may sound scary, but this common eye problem typically is easily treated and, with a few simple precautions, can often be avoided.
Anyone can get pink eye, but preschoolers, schoolchildren, college students, teachers and daycare workers are particularly at risk for the contagious types of pink eye because they work closely with others in the classroom.
Here are the essential facts about pink eye (conjunctivitis) that you should know:
Pink eye — also called conjunctivitis — is inflammation of the thin, clear covering of the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva).
Although the conjunctiva is transparent, it contains blood vessels that overlay the sclera of the eye.
Anything that triggers inflammation will cause these conjunctival blood vessels to dilate. This is what causes red, bloodshot eyes.
Conjunctivitis can have several causes (see below), but many eye doctors use the term "pink eye" to refer only to viral conjunctivitis, a highly contagious infection caused by a variety of viruses.
The primary types of conjunctivitis, based on cause, are:
No surprise: the primary symptom of pink eye is an eye that has a pink appearance. Other symptoms of pink eye depend on the type of conjunctivitis you have:
As you would expect, the treatment of pink eye depends on the type of conjunctivitis you have:
Often it can be difficult to tell the type of conjunctivitis you have by symptoms alone (or if some other eye problems or underlying health conditions are causing your symptoms).
Conditions associated with conjunctivitis include other eye infections, dry eyes and blepharitis. Also, bacterial conjunctivitis sometimes can lead to very serious eye problems such as a corneal ulcer, potentially causing permanent vision loss.
For these reasons, anytime you develop red, irritated eyes, you should call your optometrist or ophthalmologist immediately and schedule an eye exam.
Also, if you wear contact lenses, remove your lenses and wear only your glasses until your eye doctor has had a chance to examine your eyes.
Now that you know the basics about viral pink eye and other forms of conjunctivitis, what can you do to protect yourself and your kids from it?
Here are 10 simple precautions you can take to significantly reduce your risk of getting pink eye:
Wash your hands often, to keep viral pink eye from spreading.
Despite these precautions, you or your child still may develop pink eye. If the problem is contagious pink eye, be considerate of others and do your part to keep the infection from spreading.
If your child is affected, tell his or her teacher about the infection so extra steps can be taken to sanitize the classroom or day care center. Also, keep your child home until the contagious stage has passed.
Your eye doctor can let you know when you or your child can again mingle with others without risk of spreading contagious pink eye — usually about three to five days after the diagnosis.
And remember: Because a red or pink eye can be a symptom of many different types of eye problems — some that can be quite serious — make sure you consult with your eye doctor.
Article sourced from All About Vision