You’ve been enjoying an outdoor summer get-together with family and friends. It’s hard to decide what’s been the highlight of the day: the softball game, the swim in the lake, or the delicious barbecue. But, as the day progresses, you notice that your eyes start feeling quite itchy. Still, you don’t really give the discomfort too much thought. Later that night, you realize that the itching sensation in your eyes doesn’t go away. So, you look a little bit closer in the mirror only to discover a second surprise – your eyes have suddenly turned red as well.
What’s going on? What could be happening with your eyes? The answer could be a condition called conjunctivitis also known as pink eye.
What Is It?
Conjunctivitis simply refers to inflammation of your eyes’ conjunctiva. The conjunctiva acts as a thin layered membrane that covers the white part of your eye (called the sclera) as well as the inside of your eyelid. Usually, the conjunctiva creates enough mucus to help keep your eyelids moist. When inflammation occurs, the blood vessels of the conjunctiva become irritated or swollen thus making your eye appear red. There are different forms of conjunctivitis including bacterial, viral, and allergic.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis include things like redness in the white of the eye, crusty eyelashes, and mild swelling of the eyelids. Discharges from the eye are also common in cases of bacterial and viral inflammation due to extra tear production, mucus, or pus. Eye itchiness tends to be more prevalent in allergic conjunctivitis. It’s useful to know the specific symptoms you’re experiencing because they can pinpoint the actual cause of the pink eye.
So, how do our eyes become inflamed like this in the first place?
They can become exposed to various viruses (e.g. the virus that causes the common cold), bacteria like Streptococcus, or allergens like pollen or mold. Some of the most common ways that these bugs and nuisances get into our eyes are as follows:
- Not washing hands and then touching your eyes
- Reusing towels or tissues when wiping your eyes
- Improper contact lens cleaning and fit
Regardless of the cause, one very important point is that conjunctivitis is highly contagious. By understanding how this condition occurs, we can be more proactive in preventing its spread to others.
What are some treatments for dealing with pink eye?
In cases of viral conjunctivitis, symptoms typically go away on their own after a few days or a week. For other cases, cold compresses and eye drops can be used to relieve the symptoms. Finally, good hygiene practices go a long way towards prevention (wash your hands frequently, don’t share eye cosmetics, use new towels or handkerchiefs when wiping your eyes, etc.).
Pink eye is something that should be taken seriously because of its contagious nature and the discomfort associated with it. Thankfully, it’s not life threatening. A proper diagnosis and treatment should help make your eyes as good as new. Schedule an appointment with the friendly staff at Northside Eyecare today. After all, you should only be seeing red on a stop sign – not your conjunctiva.