What is it?
Pink eye is another name for conjunctivitis. It is caused by inflammation of the outer layer of the eye and inside of the eyelid that causes the eye to literally turn pink.
It can be highly contagious, and it is important to diagnose the exact cause to ensure the right treatment.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of conjunctivitis will depend on what’s causing the condition.
However, the two main symptoms are usually:
- eye redness – as a result of the inflammation and widening of the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva (the thin layer of cells covering the front of the eyes)
- a discharge – the conjunctiva contains thousands of cells that produce mucus and tiny glands that produce tears – inflammation causes the glands to become overactive, so that they produce more water and mucus
- Only one eye tends to be affected at first, but symptoms usually affect both eyes within a few hours.
If you have infective conjunctivitis, you may also have:
- a burning sensation in your eyes
- a feeling of grit in your eyes
- a sticky coating on the eyelashes – usually when you first wake up in the morning
- an enlarged lymph node (gland) in front of the ear
You may have itchy eyes if you have allergic conjunctivitis.
The pattern of symptoms for allergic conjunctivitis depends on the substance you’re allergic to.
Allergies to pollen (hay fever) occur during certain parts of the year. You can have an allergy to:
- tree pollen, released during spring
- grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer
- weed pollen, released any time from early spring to late autumn
It’s highly likely that the pollen will also cause other symptoms, such as sneezing and a runny or blocked nose.
- Always lie down on affected side so that discharge from affected eye may not come in contact with good eye.
- Personal belongings like towels, handkerchiefs, clothes, etc. should be washed separately and must not be used by other people.
Cold and warm compresses should be used:
- Warm compress if the cause is infective
- Cold if it is allergic or irritative
- Do not touch or rub the eyes.
- Stay away from smokey rooms, dusty atmospheres or anything that irritate eyes.
- Never cover the affected eye/s with eye pads, since warmth will worsen the symptoms. Dark glasses should be used instead.
Things to watch out for
Conjunctivitis can be treated at home using lubricant eye drops. GP should be contacted if the condition does not get better after few days.