What the general public calls "pink eye" is really known as conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the clear covering over the white part of the eye, also known as the conjunctiva.
The vast majority of red eyes are due to viral infections of the conjunctiva. Viral infections of the eye are similar to any other viral infection in that we cannot treat a virus, only try to alleviate the symptoms while the virus runs its course. Typically, a viral conjunctivits is accompanied by a thick mucus discharge that can actually stick the eye shut in the mornings. This type of infection is generally very contagious. Patients must be cautious when applying drops to their eyes and must be diligent about hand washing after touching their eyes. Viral conjunctivitis is generally treated with a combination steroid/antibiotic drop.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is much less frequent, but usually tougher to get under control. Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotics. Bacterial infections can also be very contagious, and can also cause more damage to the eye than viral infections.
Many red eyes can also be attributed to allergic conditions. While some cases respond very well to systemic allergy medications, some require specific eye drops. There are many over-the-counter as well as prescription drops that are used to treat more severe cases of allergic conjunctivitis.
You should never try to guess what type of conjunctivitis you may be experiencing. Call the doctors at Bagan Strinden Vision for an examination. We will diagnose your specific "red eye" problem and, if needed, prescribe appropriate eye drops. Treat the eyes and any discharge carefully:
Q: My daughter's eye is red, with some crusty stuff in the corner. Is that really pink eye? I'm not sure if I should let her go to school today.
A: Pink eye is actually the term used to describe conjunctivitis, an eye condition caused by a number of factors including allergies, irritation, the common cold, bacteria and viruses. Make an appointment with one of the doctors at Bagan Strinden Vision to rule out infections or other problems. Conjunctivitis spreads easily through contact. Your child's school might have rules about pink eye. If not, decide whether your child can go through the day without touching her eye before you send her to school.