If your eye is watering, itchy, and red, it could be allergies or it could be pink eye. How do you know when its pink eye causing your eye irritation and when do you need medical treatment? Read on to learn more about pink eye.
What is Pink Eye?
Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis — is inflammation of the thin, clear covering of the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva), notes All About Vision. It can make your eyes red and watery, itchy and gritty as though there is something in it. All too often when a person is first infected, they think they have something in their eye and rub it which usually ends up spreading the infection.
What causes Pink Eye?
According to the Mayo Clinic, most cases of pink eye are typically caused by adenovirus but can also be caused by herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster virus, and various other viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. They also note that pink eye can be a symptom of measles showing up before the rash or at the same time as the rash.
The most common causes of pinkeye include:
- A chemical splash in the eye
- A foreign object in the eye
- In newborns, a blocked tear duct
What are the symptoms of pink eye?
It depends on the type of infection but Web MD lists the following symptoms of pink eye:
- Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
- Swollen conjunctiva
- More tears than usual
- Thick yellow discharge that crusts over eyelashes, especially after sleeping, making your eyes feel stuck together upon waking
- Green or white discharge from the eye
- Itchy eyes or a gritty feeling
- Burning eyes
- Blurred vision
- Increased light sensitivity or pain with bright light
- Swollen lymph nodes
How do you treat pink eye?
It depends on the cause. Bacterial conjunctivitis infections require antibiotic drops or ointments. Though some recommend over-the-counter drops, the antibiotic might not be strong enough to alleviate the infection. Viral conjunctivitis or pink eye that’s caused by a virus will usually remedy on its own as the virus runs its course and doesn’t usually require medical treatment. (Note: If you have a fever or other symptoms such as those associated with serious viruses such as Covid-19 in addition to your pink eye you should consult your doctor immediately.) Pink eye that is caused by allergies can be prevented or relieved through allergy medication.
What are some at home remedies for pink eye relief?
Home remedies aren’t meant to treat pink eye, but they can provide some symptom relief, especially for conjunctivitis that will go away without medical treatment. Try the following:
- Use a warm washcloth to loosen the dried mucus if your eyes are stuck together. Use a clean washcloth each time so you don’t spread the infection. If you have infectious pink eye in both eyes, use a different washcloth for each eye.
- Warm teabags are said to have anti-bacterial properties. Though they don’t replace antibiotic drops needed for the infection, the warmth of the teabag can be soothing.
- Allergy medication can help infections caused by allergies.
How to prevent pink eye from spreading
Pink eye is highly contagious and can be spread easily through hand to hand contact. To prevent others from getting pink eye and avoid reinfection after treatment be sure to:
- Clean surfaces you come into contact with often with bleach or another anti-microbial cleaner to kill the bacteria or virus responsible for your pink eye.
- Wash your hands often, especially if you accidentally touch or rub your eye.
- Avoid wearing eye makeup until your infection clears. When your eyes are healed it is a good excuse to buy new cosmetics!
- Change your pillowcase nightly until you’ve finished your treatment.
- Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes.
- Get out your glasses. Avoid wearing contact lenses while your eyes are infected. You will probably need new contact lenses after treatment. To prevent infection in the first place be sure to properly clean your contacts.
- Wait 24 hours after you’ve started treatment (with antibiotic drops) before venturing out, to avoid infecting others. Keep your child home from school until they have had antibiotic drops or ointment for at least a day.
When should I call a doctor about pink eye?
According to Web MD you should call your doctor if:
- You’ve suffered an eye injury. Your symptoms may be from the injury. Eye injuries can become infected and lead to corneal ulcers, which could lead to irreversible vision loss.
- There’s a lot of yellow or green discharge from your eye, or if your eyelids are stuck together in the morning (may be a bacterial infection which requires a prescription.)
- You have severe pain in your eye when you look into a bright light or heightened sensitivity to light.
- Your vision is affected.
- You have a high fever, shaking chills, face pain, or vision loss. (These are very unlikely symptoms.)
- Your newborn has pinkeye, as it could permanently damage their vision.
There are other eye conditions (such as a stye or dry eye) that can mimic pink eye and bacterial conjunctivitis can lead to very serious eye problems potentially causing permanent vision loss. For these reasons, anytime you develop red, irritated eyes, you should call your Toronto eye doctor immediately and schedule an eye exam.
Are night time glare and halos normal after a pink eye infection?
Though the two most common causes of glare and halos around lights are cataracts and corneal surface irritation, the AAO (American Academy of Ophthalmology) states that though it isn’t common to notice these symptoms after a bout of viral conjunctivitis, many patients do experience some ocular surface irritation due to the conjunctivitis itself or from any eye drops that are instilled. This irritation can cause halos.
Pink eye is a common infection. Knowing which type you have is important for treatment. If you aren’t sure and your symptoms are mild but the redness doesn’t improve after a couple of weeks consult your Toronto eye doctor.