Pink eye is a common, highly contagious, and treatable eye condition in children and adults. In fact, many people experience it at some point in their lives. But despite pink eye being a common eye infection, a lot of people are not well informed about it. To help protect your eye health and your children’s eye health, read on to learn some important facts about pink eye.

What is Pink Eye?

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, which is the thin, mucous membrane that covers the sclera (white part of the eye) and the inner surface of your eyelid. When the conjunctiva becomes irritated or inflamed, the blood vessels become more visible, giving the eye a pinkish or reddish appearance.

Different types of pink eye include:

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis
  • Viral conjunctivitis
  • Allergic conjunctivitis

What Causes Pink Eye?

In most cases, pink eye is caused by a virus or bacteria. It can also be caused by allergic reactions or exposure to irritants, such as chlorine in pool water, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, air pollution, or makeup. Pinpointing the exact cause of pink eye can be difficult because the symptoms are usually the same.

What Are the Symptoms of Pink Eye?

Common signs and symptoms of pink eye include:

  • Pink or red eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy or burning eyes
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Rust along the eyelids or eyelashes
  • White, green, or yellow discharge coming from the eyes. Forms a crust during the night that may keep your eyes from opening when you wake up
  • A gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Blurry vision

What Steps Can I Take to Prevent Pink Eye?

Bacterial conjunctivitis and viral conjunctivitis are highly contagious, but you can take steps to keep pink eye from spreading. A lot of it comes down to cleanliness:

  • Don’t touch your eyes with your hands
  • Keep your eyes clean and free of discharge
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Avoid sharing items like blankets, towels, pillowcases, makeup, or glasses
  • Clean, replace, and store contact lenses as instructed by your eye doctor
  • Use a clean towel and washcloth
  • Replace eye makeup frequently

How is Pink Eye Treated?

Conjunctivitis often resolves on its own without medical care. In some cases, however, symptom relief can be achieved using eyedrops, ointments, and pills. Cold or warm compresses can also help clear the discharge and make the eye feel better.

While common and highly treatable, pink eye can be frustrating and difficult to deal with. If you think you have pink eye or would like to learn more about this and other eye conditions, make an appointment with one of our Valley Eyecare Center’s eye doctors by calling (602) 955-2700.