Pink eye is one of the most common disorders of the eye. It is also known as conjunctivitis. It can be caused by an allergy, a bacteria or a virus.
Signs of Pink Eye:
- Redness in the white of the eye.
- Watery eyes.
- Itchiness or a feeling of having sand in the eye.
- A discharge that may cause the eyelids to stick together. The discharge tends to be clear when caused by an allergy, or thick and yellow-white when caused by a bacteria or virus.
- A viral infection may be accompanied by a sore throat and/or a tender node in front of the ear. The discharge also tends to be more watery than sticky.
- An allergic infection may be accompanied by swollen eyes and other symptoms of allergy, such as a runny nose. It also often occurs during the typical allergy seasons (spring and fall).
- Note: Pink eye does not usually affect vision.
How contagious is Pink Eye?
Bacterial or viral Pink Eye is highly contagious. It usually spreads through hand-to-hand contact with someone who has Pink Eye or handling an object that has been touched by someone with the infection. Pink eye is particularly common in children because they frequently share toys, towels and other items. Bacterial or viral Pink Eye can occur in just one eye, but can spread to both eyes.
Bacterial Pink Eye is contagious as soon as symptoms appear and as long as there is discharge from the eye. Viral Pink Eye is contagious before symptoms occur and for as long as symptoms last.
Allergic Pink Eye is not contagious and usually occurs in both eyes.
What precautions should be used?
Frequent hand washing with soap and hot water is the most effective way to help prevent the spread of infectious Pink Eye. Wash hands thoroughly after touching the affected eye or infected items such as towels, gauze or cotton balls. Launder towels and facecloths in hot water. Despite these precautions, it may be very difficult to stop the spread of Pink Eye within the household.
How is bacterial Pink Eye treated?
In most cases, bacterial Pink Eye will go away by itself. Bathe eyes with warm water several times a day and apply warm packs to help relieve discomfort.
However, since bacterial Pink Eye is so contagious it is a good idea to begin treatment with over-the-counter antibiotic eye drops as soon as possible.
The #1 brand of anti-infective eye drops recommended by pharmacists is POLYSPORIN® Antibiotic Eye & Ear Drops.1
Treatment consists of one to two eye drops, four times a day for 7 to 10 days. If irritation occurs or if there is no improvement within two days of starting treatment, the product should be discontinued and a physician consulted.
Applying antibiotic eye drops:
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- Tilt the head back or lie down and look toward the ceiling.
- With the eyes open, gently pull the lower eyelid below the eyelashes away from the eye to form a pouch.
- Hold the container at least 2 cm away and squeeze one drop into the pouch.
- Slowly release the lower lid.
- Gently close the eye for one or two minutes. Do not rub the eye and try not to blink.
- If multiple drops are prescribed, wait three to five minutes between each drop.
- Do not let the bottle directly touch the eye.
- Because the drops can get contaminated over time, discard the bottle one month after opening.
An eye sty is simply an infection or inflammation of one of the oil or sebaceous glands that lies along the edge of the eyelid. Eye sties appear as painful red lumps and then develop heads of whitish pus. Children tend to develop sties more often than adults, probably because children's glandular secretions are more erratic, especially during puberty, and children tend to be less careful about keeping their hands clean and away from their eyes.
You should visit your doctor if:
- Swelling does not subside within a few weeks.
- The swelling interferes with your vision.
- You have pain in the eye.
- You have recurrent sties.
Applying POLYSPORIN® Ophthalmic Ointment:
- Ointments are typically used at night, since they may cause blurred vision.
- Gently pull down on the lower lid to create a pouch.
- With eye open, gently squeeze the tube to apply about 1 cm of ointment along the pouch.
- Close eye for one to two minutes and roll eye around.
- Do not let the tube directly touch the eye.
- Because the ointment can get contaminated over time, discard the tube one month after opening.
Tips for young patients:
- Reassure infants and young children using gentle words and tone that the drops or ointment will not hurt.
- The closed eye method works well for children. Have them close their eyes, then gently apply a drop at the inner corner, ask them to open their eyes before re-closing again.
- Children may also be more relaxed if they lie on their backs with their heads in their parent's lap.
- An ointment may be preferable for children since the eye drops become diluted if the child is crying.
- Remember to apply the ointment before bedtime because it may cause blurred vision.
When to see a doctor:
- If the cause of the Pink Eye is unclear.
- If the Pink Eye does not significantly improve after two days of treatment with an over-the-counter product.
- If the eye is very irritated.
- If there is a marked sensation of something in the eye.
- If there is sensitivity to light.
- If there is continuous, abundant discharge.
- If there is pain in the eye.
- If your eyesight is affected.
- If you have a fever.
- If the skin is scaling around the area of the stye.