Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is a contagious condition that causes the conjunctiva (the clear tissue that covers the white part of the eye and the eyelid) to become inflamed.
More specifically, it’s the blood vessels in the conjunctiva that become swollen, which causes the whites of the eyes to have a pinkish, reddish hue.
Pink eye can affect people of all ages and, although irritating, doesn’t usually impact a person’s vision.
The symptoms of this medical condition include redness in one or both of the eyes accompanied by irritation and itchiness. In some cases, there can be some discharge coming from the eye(s) that forms a crust if not wiped away.
In this article, we are going to cover the key causes of this common medical condition and the most effective treatments and home remedies for pink eye.
What Are the Causes and Treatments of Pink Eye?
Several factors can contribute to the development of pink eye, including bacterial or viral infections, allergies, irritants, and environmental toxins.
It can be spread through physical contact with somebody who is infected with bacterial or viral pink eye, touching contaminated surfaces, or through sexual contact.
Depending on the cause of pink eye, the treatments may include one or a combination of things. Patients must consult a specialist nurse as soon as they notice the symptoms of pink eye. Immediate treatment can reduce symptom severity and the risk of recurrent episodes of conjunctivitis.
Below, we have discussed the common causes of pink eye and the relevant treatments of the condition based on its unique causes.
Bacterial and viral infections
Bacteria can enter the body and travel to the eyes or enter the eyes directly and cause adverse reactions, including inflammation and swelling of the conjunctiva.
In particular, the bacterial species Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae are known to cause conjunctivitis.
When a bacterial infection is at the root of pink eye, the condition can be relatively severe and may take longer to clear up, as the body needs to clear the bacteria out of the area before the inflammation can decrease.
The influenza virus is a common culprit in pink eye, as are some adenoviruses and the herpes simplex virus.
Bacterial pink eye can be treated with prescription antibiotic eye drops or creams that can kill the bacteria and reduce the spread of infection.
Antibacterial medications can start to take effect within 24 to 48 hours of starting the treatment. Viral pink eye tends to resolve on its own, but antiviral medications can speed up the process and reduce symptoms.
Patients with bacterial or viral conjunctivitis might also be advised to use a cold compress on the eye(s) and consume anti-inflammatory foods to reduce inflammation, redness, and discomfort.
Doctors might also educate patients on effective personal hygiene practices (such as proper handwashing techniques) to reduce viral or bacterial spread and avoid passing the infection onto other people.
Although much less common than bacterial and viral infections, fungal infections can lead to pink eye in some individuals.
Conjunctivitis caused by a fungal infection tends to occur in those with reduced immunity. Antifungal treatments can be effective at reducing inflammation and alleviating symptoms.
Common environmental allergens, like pollen, dust mites, and pet fur, can trigger inflammation in the eye and cause conjunctivitis.
When an allergic reaction is the cause of recurrent pink eye, it tends to occur seasonally or in response to specific environmental triggers. Unlike viral, bacteria, or fungal conjunctivitis, allergen-induced pink eye isn’t contagious.
Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines can be effective at alleviating allergic conjunctivitis. Patients should also avoid allergens as much as possible to prevent the condition from worsening and avoid recurrent episodes of pink eye.
Environmental toxins and chemical irritants can cause the eyes to become irritated and inflamed, potentially leading to conjunctivitis. Common irritants include smoke, strong chemicals, and contact lenses.
It can be difficult to identify a single irritant responsible for causing pink eye, as many people are exposed to irritants in their everyday lives. However, the best course of action for irritant-induced conjunctivitis is to identify and remove the particular irritant.
Patients might need to avoid using certain products on their eyes, avoid cigarette smoke wherever possible, or consider wearing glasses instead of contact lenses for visual aid.
If a patient wants to continue wearing contact lenses, they will need to ensure proper lens hygiene by regularly cleaning and disinfecting their lenses or switching to daily use lenses that are less likely to cause irritation and infection.
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