Pink eye or conjunctivitis is a common condition we treat and is typically very contagious. Conjunctivitis is inflammation which causes blood vessels to dilate; giving those infected a pink or red look to the eye(s). Anyone can catch pink eye but those working in close proximity with others are the most at risk. We typically see three types of conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by the common cold or any other type of virus. This type is very contagious. You may experience watery, itchy eyes, and sensitivity to light for 3-5 days. Use a cold, clean washcloth several times per day to help relieve symptoms. Because of the high level of contagion, we recommend limiting public exposure for 3-5 days or until symptoms subside. If symptoms continue after this 3-5 day period, we recommend coming in for an office visit.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is serious and can damage the eye if left untreated. Our patients typically experience a yellow/greenish eye discharge in the corner of the eye. The discharge may cause eyelids to stick together when you wake up. It almost always needs to be treated with prescription drops or ointments. Lack of care can cause a corneal ulcer and/or permanent vision loss. Bacterial pink eye is slightly less contagious than viral pink eye and is typically spread by direct contact with hands or other items that have touched the infected eye.
Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by allergies. This type is not contagious. You may experience watery, burning, itchy eyes, and sensitivity to light. We typically see both eyes being infected; not just one. Talk to your family doctor about getting on allergy medicine before the season starts to help avoid contracting allergic pink eye.
In any case, if you wear contact lenses, you’ll want to remove them immediately and only wear your glasses until the symptoms stop. Washing your hands, avoiding touching or rubbing your eyes, and not sharing personal items with others can greatly decrease your chance of contracting pink eye. A pink or reddish look of the eye can be only one symptom of many other conditions, so please contact us if you have any concerns.