Pink eye: Its causes and its treatments

There are a few diseases and infections that nearly all people contract as children. For example, it is very common for a child to have chicken pox or pink eye at some point during their early years. In particular, pink eye – also known as conjunctivitis – is extremely contagious and is easily spread at school. The American Optometric Association describes pink eye as “an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye.” This inflammation can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, or, in some cases, an allergic reaction to airborne or chemical irritants. If you suspect your child may have pink eye, the American Optometric Association suggests you be aware of the following symptoms: itching or burning in the eye, swollen eyelids, pink discoloration in the eye, a gritty sensation, and discharge being released from the eye. People with pink eye can get it in one or both eyes, so be on the lookout for these symptoms in either eye.

However, in addition to noting these common symptoms, the best and most accurate way to diagnose pink eye is by getting an eye examination by a professional. At the eye exam, the doctor will evaluate the extent to which the person’s vision has been affected; closely look at the conjunctiva and eye tissue; ask questions about the person’s recent environments to determine a probable cause; and discuss treatment options. Depending on the type and cause of the infection, your doctor may recommend different treatments. For instance, according to the American Optometric Association, bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated by applying antibiotic eye drops daily. However, a person who has viral conjunctivitis will not be able to use antibiotics; instead, they simply have to wait for the virus to pass through their system. In cases of allergic reactions, pink eye can often be treated by removing the irritant and flushing chemicals out of the eye. The American Optometric Association suggests applying a warm compress to the eye and avoiding any rubbing. By using your vision care plan, an eye care professional will be able to give you further instructions and inform you of the best treatment plan for yours or your child’s particular condition.

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