Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the thin clear covering of the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. There are three different types of pink eye, Viral, Bacterial and allergic. Viral conjunctivitis caused by a virus, like a cold is very contagious, but will usually clear up on its own within several days without medical treatment. A bacterial conjunctivitis can cause serious damage to the eye if left untreated. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by irritants such as pollen, dust and animal dander, this may be seasonal or flare up year round.
Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are watery, itchy eyes, sensitive to light. This is highly contagious and can be spread by coughing and sneezing. Bacterial conjunctivitis symptoms are a sticky yellow or greenish discharge in the corner of the eye. In some cases this discharge can be severe enough to cause the eyelids to be stuck together when you wake up. Allergic conjunctivitis symptoms are watery, burning, itchy eyes.
There are steps that can be taken to prevent pink eye. Never share personal items such as washcloths, hand towels or tissues. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoid rubbing or touching your eyes. Never (EVER) share your color contact lenses or special effect contacts with friends. Wash your hands frequently, especially when spending time at school or in other public places. Keep a hand disinfectant (e.g., Purell) handy and use it frequently. Frequently clean surfaces such as countertops, bathroom vanities, faucet handles and shared phones with an appropriate antiseptic cleaner. If you know you suffer from seasonal allergies, ask your doctor what can be done to minimize your symptoms before they begin. If you wear contacts, be sure to follow your eye doctor’s instructions for lens care and replacement, and use contact lens solutions properly or consider switching to daily disposable contacts. When swimming, wear swim goggles to protect yourself from bacteria and other microorganisms in the water that can cause conjunctivitis. Before showering, using a hot tub or being in water of any kind, remove your contact lenses to avoid trapping bacteria between your eyes and the lenses.