Pink eye is among the most common eye diseases and is typically thought of as a condition that affects children.
While it is true that children are affected by pink eye, this disease can affect anyone of any age.
What Exactly is Pink Eye?
Pink eye is a viral infection of one or both of the eyes. This infection is the same type of virus that causes a common cold or other respiratory infection and is simply infecting the eyes instead of the respiratory tract.
Since the eyes are infected with a virus, the body has an immune response to begin fighting the infection.
The immune response causes the signs and symptoms that are typically associated with pink eye.
What are Signs and Symptoms of Pink Eye?
As noted by the name, pink eye has the characteristic symptom of red or pink colored eyes. This occurs in the white of the eye and is typically throughout the entire eye and very uniform in color.
Another symptom that is frequently experienced with pink eye is watering eyes. The eye that is infected will often tear excessively and either result in tears running down the face or the need to wipe the tears from the eye.
Other symptoms that can occur with pink eye are itching eyes irritated eyes, blurry vision, fever, and inflamed eyelids.
There are signs of pink eye that must be detected by a doctor in an eye exam as well as the symptoms which are experienced by the patient.
A main sign of pink eye is the presence of follicles on the inside of the eyelids. Other signs include a pseudomembrane on the eyelid and inflamed blood vessels in the eyes.
How Contagious is Pink Eye?
The reason that pink eye is usually thought to affect children is that a common exposure to the disease is through an outbreak at a school or day care.
These outbreaks are very difficult to contain due to the highly contagious nature of the virus that causes pink eye.
The virus is spread through contact with the virus particles either from contact with tears, respiratory droplets, or contact with an object that has been exposed to the viral particles.
As the virus can survive on surfaces for days, it can easily be spread from person to person in a small or confined area.
How do you Prevent the Spread of Pink Eye?
As pink eye is highly contagious, it is imperative to attempt to prevent the spread of the disease once it has been identified.
Keeping towels and linens separate once the person with pink has used them, not sharing eye drops or makeup, and washing hands frequently are steps to mitigate the spread of pink eye.
Many disinfectants and antimicrobial cleaners are available and can be used to sanitize commonly touched objects like doorknobs, light switches, and remotes.
How do you Treat Pink Eye?
As a viral infection, no antibiotics will help to treat pink eye. In most cases, the best treatment is simply managing the symptoms and preventing the spread of the disease.
To manage the symptoms of pink eye, a steroid may be prescribed, or artificial tears may be recommended.
There is an available treatment for more severe or recurrent cases of pink eye. This treatment is the betadine wash and must be performed in an eye care office by a trained eye doctor.
If you are exhibiting symptoms of pink eye, contact your eye doctor to discuss the best option for treatment.