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What Causes Pink Eye?

What Causes Pink Eye?

In this following HealthHearty article, we will understand the possible causes of developing a pink eye and the symptoms that come about due to the same.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
The acute inflammation of the outer most layer of the eye and the inner surface of eyelids (conjunctiva) due to an infection or allergic reaction is called conjunctivitis or pink eye. The common symptoms of these are itchy, watery eyes, which are red and puffy.
One can get infected with conjunctivitis by both, direct and indirect contact. When one comes in contact with the discharge from their eyes and touches another person without washing their hands, it leads to a direct spread of pink eye. If a person touches a contaminated surface with microscopic agents of pink eye, it leads to indirect spread of the infection. If one develops it due to cold infection, one can get pink eye by coming in contact with the droplets from a sneeze or cough of the infected person.
What Causes the Condition
Bacterial Infection
Bacterial infection can spread to both eyes and lead to excess watering. It also causes a heavy green or yellow discharge and crusting on the eyelids sometimes. There is a lot of itching experienced as a result of bacterial conjunctivitis. This kind of conjunctivitis with green, white or yellow discharge, and red and sticky eyelids with eye pain is called purulent pink eye.
Viral Infection
Viral infection usually affects one eye and leads to excess watering. There is light, clear discharge experienced, and at times there is crusting as well. This kind of conjunctivitis with clear watery discharge, with mild or no eye pain, is called non-purulent pink eye.
Allergic Reaction
Allergic conjunctivitis can affect both eyes and is caused due to a substance-induced allergic reaction. One can develop allergic conjunctivitis due to grass, pollen, ragweed, animal dander, and dust mite allergy. It causes intense itching, excessive watering, eye inflammation, and sneezing with watery nasal discharge.
Irritant Reaction
A pink eye could also be brought on due to the presence of a substance in the environment, like chlorine, soaps, and other chemicals or smoke, fumes and other air pollutants. It causes redness, irritation, watery eyes, mucous discharge, etc. This form of conjunctivitis that is brought on due to irritation generally clears up in a day.
Blocked Tear Duct
A blocked tear duct in newborn babies may lead to pink eye in neonates. Also, inclusion conjunctivitis of the newborn (ICN) may be observed. This conjunctivitis is caused due to Chlamydia trachomatis, which is a bacterium that causes acute, purulent conjunctivitis.
Pink Eye Symptoms
The pink eye symptoms observed in an infected person are as follows:
  • Redness in both or one eye is the first symptom of infection
  • Itchiness in one or both eyes
  • Discharge from one or both eyes
  • Crusting of the discharge in one or both eyes
  • Teary or excessively watery eyes
  • Mild or severe eye pain
  • Inflammation of the conjunctiva that causes blood vessels underneath to rise and dilate. This causes redness as a symptom of pink eye
How Long is Pink Eye Contagious
Bacterial conjunctivitis is likely to be contagious for about 14 days. It will remain contagious for 24 hours after pink eye treatment. In case of viral conjunctivitis, it remains contagious for about 3 to 7 days after infection. Allergic and chemical irritation conjunctivitis are not a contagious condition.
How do You Get Rid of Pink Eye
Conjunctivitis remedies vary according to the cause of conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis cannot be treated with antibiotics. Thus, one needs to allow the infection to run its course, which generally lasts for about 2 to 3 weeks. If the cause of viral conjunctivitis is herpes simplex virus, the doctor may advise antiviral medications for treatment.
Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic eye drops and antibiotic eye ointment. The infection will get treated within several days. You need to follow your doctor's instructions and make sure you complete the antibiotic course to prevent a relapse.
Antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, mast cell stabilizers, anti-inflammatory eye drops, etc. are used for treating conjunctivitis due to allergy. One needs to stay away from the allergens as much as possible to prevent pink eye.
Other remedies include using a warm compress which helps reduce the itching, irritation, and inflammation. One needs to avoid wearing contact lens or switch to a new brand, during the period that irritation conjunctivitis is experienced. One should avoid touching their eyes or discharge and wash hands frequently with a disinfectant soap. One should also avoid eye makeup as the organisms can spread to the cosmetics and reuse may lead to a recurrent infection.
If you observe any of the symptoms, make sure you visit a doctor. Follow the remedies advised and get rid of the condition as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.