What do you need to know about Pink Eye?

What is pink eye (conjunctivitis)?

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an infection or swelling of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid. This inflammation gives your eye the red or pink color that’s commonly associated with pink eye.

Pink eye is one of the most common eye infections in children and adults and according to the Cleveland Clinic, there are about 6 million cases in the U.S. each year. 

Pink eye does not affect your vision but can be irritating and contagious.

What causes pink eye?

There are three main causes of pink eye:

  • Infection / Viruses. This is the most common cause and type of pink eye and can be caused by numerous viruses. 
  • Allergens. This type of pink eye is less contagious and caused by a reaction to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pets, mold, cosmetics, and medicine. 
  • Bacteria. This type of pink eye is more common in children than adults and can be easily spread. 

Bacterial and viral pink eye can commonly occur alongside colds or respiratory infections. Other causes of pink eye can be chemicals, foreign objects in the eye, pollution, or fungi. These types of pink eye are not contagious. 

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

The most common symptoms of pink eye are:

  • Redness in the eyes
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Tearing up
  • Gritty feeling in the eye

How to prevent pink eye?

When caused by bacteria or a virus, pink eye is very contagious, and it is important to be aware of how you can prevent it. Here are the CDC tips on how to prevent pink eye, as well as how to control the spread if you do have pink eye.

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your eyes
  • Clean eyeglasses
  • Clean eyes gently
  • Wash pillowcases and towels often

How do you know it’s pink eye?

Only a healthcare provider can diagnose you for sure and they will try to determine the cause and type based on your health history. Once diagnosed, they will advise you on how to manage and treat it. This will vary based on the type of pink eye. 

Pink eye usually isn’t serious, it’s highly treatable and preventable. The key is to take steps to avoid spreading pink eye to others or getting a repeat case of it. 

If you have questions or concerns and symptoms last longer than 1 – 2 weeks, visit urgent care, or contact your healthcare provider. 

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