Pink Eye is often thought of as a children’s health problem. It spreads quickly and easy in schools, after school programs and among siblings. Because pink eye is so easily spread from one unsuspecting victim to another, schools and daycare centers often require the infected child to stay home until they are no longer contagious. While children are often victims of pink eye, it can be spread to adults too! So what can be done to stop this dreaded eye issue from taking over your family and causing missed school and work days?
What is Pink Eye?
Pink eye is also called conjunctivitis by doctors. It is the inflammation of the thin, transparent covering of the white of the eye as well as the inside of the eyelids. This thin layer contains tiny blood vessels. When you experience eye inflammation, those blood vessels dilate and cause your eyes to turn red. While having red or “pink eye” can be a symptom of contagious conjunctivitis, it isn’t the only thing that causes red eyes. Other causes of red eyes include:
- Dry Eyes
- Contact Lenses
- Computer Vision Syndrome
- Eye Trauma
- Lack of Sleep
If you aren’t sure what is causing your red eyes or if you want relief, be sure to call your optometrist. A red or pink eye may seem like a minor thing, but could also be a symptom of a much bigger eye problem. Having your optometrist take a look is strongly recommended.
How is Pink Eye Transmitted and How Long Does it Last?
Most pink eye symptoms last a few days to a few weeks, depending on what is causing the inflammation but in some cases symptoms can linger much longer. It is important to be properly diagnosed so that the right course of treatment is prescribed.
Viral conjunctivitis can be spread by coughing and sneezing. This also means that surfaces like doorknobs and light switches around a coughing or sneezing person could have traces of the virus. This is one reason why handwashing is so important and can help reduce the spread of conjunctivitis and other illnesses.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually spread by direct contact with infected hands or items that have touched the eye like makeup tools, pillowcases, towels and washcloths.
Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by pollen, dust and animal dander and is not contagious.
Your optometrist will guide you on what steps you should take once you are diagnosed with conjunctivitis. They will also help you manage your symptoms and give you instructions on how to reduce exposing other people to a contagious forms of pink eye if you have one.
How to Prevent Pink Eye
- Wash your hands often
- Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and avoid rubbing or touching your eyes
- Wear goggles while swimming
- Clean countertops, handles, and light switches often
- Remove your contact lenses before showering, enjoying a hot tub or swimming pool
- Never share makeup brushes or applicators
- Never share contact lenses
- Never share items like washcloths, towels or tissues.
If your eye redness is accompanied by eye pain, swelling, light sensitivity or vision changes call your optometrist immediately.