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What Does it Mean If I Have Pink or Red Eye?

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Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva.  The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of the eye.  When blood vessels of the conjunctiva become inflamed, they get enlarged which causes the eye to appear red or pinkish.

Pink eye is highly contagious and it can spread very quickly.  Fortunately, it’s rarely serious. It’s very rare that it damages your vision.  Early treatment is the key to a quick recovery. Proper measures are required to prevent its spread which can mitigate the chances of long-term complications caused by pink eye.

Pink eye can be irritating as it can cause severe burning and itching. Symptomatic treatments can help decrease the discomfort of pink eye. Early diagnosis and treatment can help limit the spread of pink eye.

Pink eye generally has three main causes:  Viral, bacterial, or allergic.

Pink Eye caused by viruses is very contagious so quarantine might be necessary.  The virus most commonly responsible is the adenovirus. This virus often causes upper respiratory type infections, such as a sore throat.  Coronavirus can also cause pink eye.  In addition, the herpes virus can also cause a viral pink eye infection. Unique symptoms of pink eye-specific to this type include swollen or tenderness in the front of ears, excessive tears, and whitish discharge.

When Pink Eye is caused by bacteria the symptoms include discharge of grey or yellowish color, eyelashes sticking together, and swelling of the upper eyelid.  Some mild pain may be present as well.  This type is extremely contagious as well, and so isolation is important.  This type does have treatment with antibiotics, however. So, healing time can be cut in half with these.

When allergies are the culprit to pink eye, pollen, make-up, dust, pets, or mold may be involved.  Some allergies such as pollen and plants are difficult to avoid.  There are many types of allergy eye drops available to minimize the discomfort from eye allergies.  This type of pink eye is not contagious, so work may continue as usual.  If the redness is in one eye and not the other, it is not likely to be attributed to this type.

Practicing good hygiene is important to control the spread of pink eye. Certain measures are:

  • Never touch your eyes with your hands.
  • You should wash your hands often.
  • It is important to use a clean towel daily
  • Never share your towels or washcloths with your friends or family.
  • Change your pillowcases often.
  • It is advised not to share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items with others.

If the eye shows more redness, then the things listed above may not be the cause and something more serious may be the problem.  The Doctors at Eye Vision Associates are available 24/7 to triage your problems and are happy to help you solve your eye care needs.