Pink eye can spread across a school or daycare rapidly infecting multiple children and teachers. While anyone can get pink eye, the fact that it is highly contagious means that those working closely in a classroom setting are more susceptible. Luckily, it is easily treated and does not last long. While this problem sounds scary and often looks painful, it rarely poses a serious issue to eye health. But you may still be wondering exactly what is pink eye and can it negatively affect my vision?
Understanding What is Pink Eye
Pink eye is formally known as conjunctivitis because it is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. Your eye has a thin layer of clear tissue that goes over the white part of the eyeball (sclera) and the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva). The conjunctiva is transparent, but it does contain small blood vessels that reach out across the sclera.
When the conjunctiva of the eye becomes inflamed, the blood vessels expand. The increased amount of blood in the vessels cause the eyes to look red and bloodshot. Now, when another parents asks, what is pink eye, you will be able to tell them it is the blood vessels in the eye expanding that gives it its name.
Three main causes of Pink Eye
There are three main forms of conjunctivitis: viral, bacterial, and allergic. When doctors talk about pink eye, they are generally referring to viral conjunctivitis. There is no single virus that causes viral conjunctivitis, rather a variety of different viruses just like the common cold. In fact, pink eye is often associated with the same viruses that cause the common cold.
Pink eye spreads from people who cough and sneeze from an upper respiratory tract infection. The virus can also spread throughout your own body along your mucus membranes. For example, if you have a cold in your respiratory system, blowing your nose super hard can move the virus up into your throat, nose, tear ducts, and then to the conjunctiva. No wonder it spreads so quickly!
Bacterial conjunctivitis is often caused by sinus or ear infections, coming in contact with another infected person, or being exposed to the bacteria from a contaminated surface. The eye produces a thick discharge or pus either in one or both eyes from the bacteria. In order to clear up the infection, antibiotics such as eye drops or ointment are required. Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are the most common types of bacterial pink eye, but other forms of bacteria can cause eye infections as well so it is very important that you see an eye doctor immediately. This type of conjunctivitis can cause serious damage to your eyes if left untreated.
Allergic conjunctivitis is due to an allergen like a specific pollen or animal dander. It often improves just by removing the allergen from the person’s environment. The only way to really know which form of pink eye you have is to see a doctor. It is important, as a parent, to know which type of conjunctivitis your child has in order to properly treat it and reduce the possibility of any complications that could potentially affect your child’s vision.
Symptoms of Pink Eye
When exploring what is pink eye, it is important to know the symptoms.
- Redness or swelling of the white or inside of the eye
- Increased tears
- Eye discharge of any color
- Itchy, irritated, or burning sensations
- Crusting of the eyelid or lashes
If you or your child have any of the following symptoms, it is possible to have contracted pink eye.
Make an Appointment with your Doctor
If you notice any signs or symptoms that you think could be pink eye, make an appointment with your eye doctor right away. Pink eye is highly contagious, but an early diagnosis can protect the people around you. Not only that, but pink eye can be contagious for as long as two weeks after signs and symptoms begin. Having a doctor assess your specific type of pink eye and prescribe an antibiotic, if needed, will help to shorten the duration of the infection and reduce any potential complications.
Now that you are familiar with what is pink eye and you feel that you might have it due to your itchy, swollen eyes, contact Dr. Leonard’s office immediately. We can help you get relief right away. You can learn more about eye diseases and infections on our website or from one of our doctors so please feel free to contact us at 818-891-6711 for more information or book an appointment online today!