Reviewed by: Amy Hinshaw
Whether you contracted it through bacterial contact, an allergic reaction or another source, dealing with conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is highly inconvenient. No one enjoys itchy, watery eyes or swollen eyelids.
Thankfully, this guide will answer some common questions about this condition, such as how it spreads, who to see for treatment and how to know if your pink eye is healing.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva — the thin, clear tissue lining your inner eyelid and the white portion of your eyeball. This infection makes the blood vessels in your eye more visible, hence the name “pink eye.”
Pink eye can spread in multiple ways. Below are three primary types of conjunctivitis:
Bacterial pink eye spreads by direct contact with bacteria-contaminated hands or objects. It can also result from improper contact lens use. Types of conjunctivitis-causing bacteria include staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, streptococcus pneumoniae and others.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, spreading easily among family members or children in school settings. For instance, bacteria may transmit when an infected individual touches their eye, then touches a door handle. Sharing objects like pillowcases, towels and blankets can also spread bacterial conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis usually stems from a virus that causes common colds. Viral infections comprise about 80% of pink eye cases, with adenovirus being the most common pathogen.
A person might show conjunctivitis symptoms alone, or they may experience additional cold symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat or swollen lymph nodes. Like bacterial pink eye, viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious.
An allergic reaction to dust, animal dander, mold, pollen, smoke or other substances can trigger conjunctivitis. Louisiana, for example, has a variety of highly allergenic trees, grass and weeds. Due to the area’s high heat and humidity, mold and dust mites often induce indoor allergies, as well.
Some skin- and eye-care products, perfumes and medications contain preservative chemicals that can also cause reactions. Allergic conjunctivitis isn’t normally contagious.
The typical signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
Most cases of pink eye are mild and clear up in one to two weeks on their own. However, some viral infections can take three weeks or longer to heal. Certain home-care remedies can help relieve symptoms and speed up recovery.
While conjunctivitis usually heals on its own without treatment, you can practice some self-care measures to combat dryness, swelling and other symptoms. Here are some ways to alleviate pink eye:
To avoid transmitting the infection, be sure to stay home from work or school until your pink eye resolves. You should also avoid swimming while you have conjunctivitis. The viral and bacterial types of pink eye are incredibly contagious, so they can easily spread to others in pools, even in chlorinated water.
If your conjunctivitis symptoms persist or worsen beyond two weeks of home treatments, you may need medical care.
Who do you go to for pink eye in severe or ongoing cases? Most optometrists treat pink eye, but consulting an eye doctor right away isn’t always necessary. Regular primary care physicians can treat most cases of conjunctivitis.
Urgent care is another option. A medical provider at an urgent clinic can help accelerate healing and prevent future flare-ups. Further, you usually receive quicker treatment at these facilities than in traditional emergency rooms and hospitals.
You should seek medical care for pink eye if you experience the following:
Your provider can determine an appropriate treatment plan based on the cause, symptoms and severity of your infection. This treatment could include one or multiple remedies like water flushes, prescription eye drops, pills or ointments.
Here are some common treatments for different infection types:
Once your infection heals, certain precautionary measures can help prevent it from returning and spreading. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:
If your conjunctivitis isn’t resolving with self-care methods, SouthStar Urgent Care in Louisiana is here for you. Our centers are open seven days a week, and we provide extended hours to accommodate your schedule.
To reduce the waiting times you’d normally encounter in a hospital or emergency room, we have multiple exam rooms and take walk-ins. We also accept many major insurance providers.
Our team is devoted to providing compassionate, world-class care for every client that comes through our door. If you’re seeking relief from pink eye symptoms, we can help. Find a clinic near you to begin treatment!