You may recall seeing sportscaster Bob Costas fighting through watery, reddish eyes as he hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi—and no those weren’t tears of joy. The prime-time NBC star was actually suffering from pink eye, or inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin membrane that coats the surface of the eye and eyelid. Also called conjunctivitis, pink eye is quite common and is highly contagious if you’re not careful. Because of the high risk of spreading conjunctivitis, we created a short overview of pink eye along with a few tips on how you can protect yourself and those around you.
Overview of Pink Eye
- Allergies, and
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are perhaps the most common types of pink eye. Sharing a towel, improper hand washing, or even direct skin contact with an infected person can contribute to the spread of pink eye.
Allergic conjunctivitis, on the other hand, is not contagious and results when an allergen, such as pollen, triggers more histamine in the body. This leads to inflammation and can sometimes result in pink eye.
You can also get chemical or toxic conjunctivitis when a foreign substance gets into your eyes, such as the chlorine used in swimming pools. Smoke, fumes, and other chemicals can also cause conjunctivitis.
In many cases, pink eye will go away naturally without needing medical treatment or antibiotics. You can, however, use artificial tears and over-the-counter ointments in an effort to alleviate pink eye symptoms. If you’re exposed to a chemical irritant, it’s a good idea to rinse your eyes thoroughly with warm water and follow up with your doctor immediately.
Protecting Against Pink Eye
Adults and children with viral or bacterial pink eye should remain at home to avoid spreading the infection to others in the workplace or school. Additionally, here are a few ways you can protect against conjunctivitis:
- Practice good hygiene and wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap
- Never share makeup products such as mascara or eyeliner or wear another person’s contact lenses
- Resist the urge to itch or touch your eyes
- Wash your pillowcases, bed linens, and towels on a regular basis
- Avoid close contact (e.g. kissing, hugging, etc.) with a person who has pink eye
When to call a doctor
For many people, pink eye is nothing more than a mild irritation that causes temporary discomfort or pain. However, the complications of pink eye can become severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. If you or a loved one have conjunctivitis, make sure you seek medical treatment if your symptoms don’t improve with seven to ten days.
Additionally, you may need to call a doctor if you experience one or more of the following:
- Intense pain in your eye(s)
- Severe redness or inflammation of the eye(s)
- Blurry vision
- Extreme light sensitivity
Conjunctivitis in Newborns
Pink eye in young children, or neonatal conjunctivitis, is very dangerous, and may lead to severe eye problems in the future, not to mention other infections of the body. Infants are especially vulnerable to pink eye if the mother has a preexisting infection, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or genital or oral herpes. Besides bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, a newborn can also get pink eye from blocked tear ducts as well as eye drop treatments, which are commonly used after birth to thwart infection.
To reduce the risk of neonatal conjunctivitis, doctors are encouraging pregnant mothers to get tested and or treated for sexually transmitted diseases and other infections. Additionally, if your infant shows signs of conjunctivitis after childbirth, be sure to seek medical treatment immediately to avoid the risk of long-term damage.
At Elite Care 24 Hour Emergency, we are fully staffed with board-certified physicians and offer the same medical expertise as a hospital emergency room. If you need fast and reliable treatment near the Coppell, Lewisville or The Colony area, Elite Care is your trusted source for emergency services.