You wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, and head to the bathroom to complete your morning routine. When you look up in the mirror, you notice your eye is inflamed and looking pink. What gives?
Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is the inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and white part of the eyeball. Inflamed blood vessels turn pink or red, which makes them more noticeable. The good news is, the condition does not affect your vision, although it can be irritating and contagious.
Causes and symptoms of conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is caused by inflammation, infection, or allergic reaction. Bacteria can enter the eye through rubbing, contaminated fluid, or a foreign object touching the eye.
Both viruses and bacteria can lead to conjunctivitis. If someone with conjunctivitis touches their eye and comes in contact with someone else or with objects other people may touch, an unsuspecting person may pick up the infection and develop pink eye. It is spread easily.
Conjunctivitis (pink eye) signs and symptoms
Aside from a reddish or pink eye, symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Gritty feeling on the eye
- Discharge from the eye – eye may not open in the morning because of crusted the discharge over the eyelids
Risk factors for conjunctivitis
Based on the causes of conjunctivitis, there are three main risk factors for developing pink eye: allergies, bacteria or virus exposure, and the use of contact lenses. If not properly cared for, contact lenses can get dirty and transfer bacteria into your eye, increasing your risk of developing conjunctivitis.
Treatment options for conjunctivitis
If conjunctivitis is caused by a virus, it will simply run its course and no medical intervention is required. Just ensure you are not passing it on to others. If pink eye is caused by bacteria, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic drops or other eye ointments. Lastly, if your conjunctivitis is caused by an allergy, then medications to treat allergies may be prescribed. You should follow your medication regimen regularly to prevent another allergic flare-up.
Prevention tips for conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis can be irritating, and you may have to isolate yourself for a while due to its contagiousness. Therefore, it’s best if you prevent the onset of pink eye altogether. Here are some effective tips to prevent conjunctivitis:
- Never touch your eyes – especially if your hands are dirty.
- Always keep your hands clean
- Always clean your face with clean washcloths and towels
- Throw away old makeup, especially the products you use for your eyes (mascara, eyeliner)
- Don’t share eye cosmetics
- Don’t share towels or washcloths
- Get tested for allergies and avoid allergens
- Change pillowcases
- Clean contact lenses and clean them properly.
By following these tips, you can lower your risk and prevent the onset of conjunctivitis.