An eye infection, either bacterial or viral in nature, can cause inflammation of the outermost layer of the eye, conjunctiva. This condition is called conjunctivitis or colloquially, pink eye. A person who has contracted a pink eye is not only in great discomfort until the condition heals completely, but also his entire routine goes for a toss. He / she should seek medical help immediately.
The incubation period for pink eye depends upon the type, causes and symptoms. It is the period between the start of the infection and appearance of the symptoms, and it can be 12 hours to 3 days for a viral infection. For bacterial infection, it may take 1-3 days, for the symptoms to show up. The period may vary from 2 days to 2 weeks, depending upon different situations. During the incubation period, the infection is not contagious. Bacterial infection can spread when symptoms start to show up. It can continue to spread till 24 hours after medication. Pink eye caused due to viral infection can be contagious for up to 14 days from the start of the symptoms.
How Long does Pink Eye Last with Treatment
Allergic Pink Eye: Allergic pink eye can be treated with cold, moist wash cloths applied to the eyes. Even over the counter eye drops can provide instant relief. Within 24 hours, it may start to get better, when the allergen (harmful substance) is removed or when it is treated by a doctor properly. In some cases, it may last for one or two days. If the remedies are not adequate, the doctor can suggest you to take stronger medications.
Viral Pink Eye: Home remedies like maintaining hygiene to prevent its spread, providing sufficient rest to the eyes play an important role in controlling the viral infection. Pink eye recovery can be noticed within 2-3 days, but before complete recovery, the person may experience worsening of symptoms. Sometimes, the symptoms are experienced for 4-7 days. In some cases, symptoms can be observed even up to three weeks. Viral conjunctivitis can last for one or two days and it does not require any particular medical treatment. Usually, a child suffering from viral pink eye can return to daycare or an adult can join work within 3-5 days. Symptoms like reddening of the eyes, excessive tearing and irritation of the eyes may subside gradually but morning crusting may last longer. If herpes virus causes pink eye (it is very rare), only antiviral medicine can help relieve the symptoms. The situation needs prompt medical attention.
Bacterial Pink Eye: Bacterial pink eye is treated with antibiotics and eye drops. If you start antibiotics for bacterial pink eye, the redness, irritation, and eye discharge should be reduced and the condition should begin to improve within 24 to 48 hours. Remember, you should finish the course of antibiotics prescribed for you, even if the condition improves within a day or two. You should not stop taking pills even if you see improvement in the condition. If a few bacteria are left in your body, then you will again have to suffer from 'pink eye', and you will have to finish another course of antibiotics.
Without proper treatment, it will take time to get rid of the symptoms and the condition may worsen. With proper treatment, the symptoms should disappear within a week. However, in some cases, the symptoms may last for up to three weeks, with a minority of people not getting better even after two to three weeks of treatment. Those who have weak immune system or those who wear contact lenses or people with only one eye functioning need to take extra care while recovering from pink eye. For any type of pink eye, if significantly worse symptoms like sensitivity to light, change in vision, severe eye pain or difficulty in keeping the eye open, etc. are experienced, you should immediately consult your doctor. You should not touch the eye in spite of the severe itching sensation. You should wash your hands frequently, especially before and after applying medication. Used tissues and used eye drops should be properly disposed of. Stop sharing of eye drops and towels as a rule.
Causes and Common Symptoms
Since an infection caused by either streptococci or staphylococci bacteria is contagious, prompt treatment is essential for bacterial pink eye. Viral infections like sore throat, respiratory infection, sinus infection, common cold, can also lead to pink eye. Other pink eye causes include allergic reactions to dust and pollen, exposure to smoke, fumes or chemicals in shampoo, chlorine from swimming pool, etc. Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are infectious in nature but allergic conjunctivitis is not. Following symptoms are noticed by the patients suffering from pink eye.
- Irritating watery eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Sticking of eyelids together on waking
- Yellow to greenish discharge from the eyes
- Itching and burning sensation
- Feeling of sand in the eye
Pink eye is more common in children than adults. When children catch this type of eye infection, parents are worried and desperate to know when the symptoms would go away. Conjunctivitis can affect one or both eyes of children or babies. Antibiotic ointments or drops are usually prescribed by the doctors. Adults with pink eye should stay away from infants and toddlers. Proper hygiene should be maintained by all family members. Proper eye care is essential to avoid eye / vision problems. Maintaining cleanliness all over the house is essential.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.