Conjunctivitis or pink eye (also known as “Madras eye”), is one of the most common eye infection affecting children. It is a severe inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. This happens most commonly due to an allergic reaction or an infection (generally viral, but sometimes bacterial).Though the inflammation of pink eye places you in an irritating situation; it hardly affects your sight. If you doubt pink eye, you can take measures to reduce your uneasiness. But remember, pink eye can be infectious. So, early diagnosis and treatment are suggested to help curb its spread. Inflammation turns small blood vessels in the conjunctiva more prominent, which is what significantly causes the pink or red cast to the whites of your eyes.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis
The most common pink eye symptoms are listed below:
- Redness in one or both eyes
- Itchy feeling in one or both eyes
- A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
- A discharge in one or both eyes that develops a crust during night
Pink eye may make you feel as if you’ve got something in one or both of your eyes what you just can’t do away with. When you wake up in the morning, you may find your eyes to be pasted shut due to the discharge from your eyes that develops crust.
Causes of conjunctivitis
The most common pink eye symptoms are listed below:
- A chemical splash in the eye
- A foreign object in the eye
The list of types of conjunctivitis includes:
1. Viral pink eye
2. Bacterial pink eye
3. Chlamydia pink eye
4. Allergic conjunctivitis
5. Chemical pink eye
Viral pink eye
The chief cause of a red, inflamed eye is virus infection. Adenoviruses are the type of virus, most commonly responsible for the eye infection. Viral pink eye symptoms are generally related to more of a watery discharge which is not green or yellow in color. Often, viral “cold-like” symptoms comprising sinus congestion and runny nose are also associated with viral pink eye. The eyelids may become inflated. Sometimes looking at bright lights causes pain. Though viral pink eye may not involve an antibiotic, those affected with this disease, should visit a doctor, as occasionally this form of pink eye can hint at the infection of cornea, the clear portion of the front of the eyeball. This infection must be properly detected and treated. Viral pink eye is highly infectious. The symptoms of viral pink eye are distinct for the first 3 to5 days after symptoms come out, with slow resolution over the following 1 to 2 weeks.
Bacterial pink eye
Staphylococci and Streptococci, among others, are types of bacteria that generate pink eye. Symptoms of bacterial pink eye include:
- Eye pain
- Moderate to large amount of discharge (usually yellow or greenish in color).
The watery discharge normally accumulates after sleeping. Affected children may awaken most unhappy to find that their eyes are stuck shut. There is a need to apply a warm washcloth to the eyes to clean the discharge. Bacterial pink eye is treated by repeated warm washcloths applied to the eyes (try applying these to your child’s eye; one eye at a time, during a favorite video) along with antibiotic eye drops or ointment recommended by the doctor.
If you are experiencing other symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, earache, etc., there is a good chance of being affected by the same bacteria. An oral antibiotic may also be required to treat this infection along with the antibiotic drops or ointment for the eyes.
Chlamydia pink eye
Pink eye due to infection with Chlamydia is a rare form of bacterial pink eye in the U.S., but it is quite common in Africa and Middle Eastern countries.
Chlamydia is known to cause pink eye in adults and neonates. It is a possible cause of pink eye in adolescents and adults which can be sexually transmitted. Chlamydia pink eye is normally treated with erythromycin (E-Mycin, Eryc, Ery-Tab, PCE, Pediazole, Ilosone) or oral tetracycline (Sumycin), but it is not applied to children below age 8, because it may cause discoloration of the teeth in children.
Allergic conjunctivitis affects both eyes and is a reaction to an allergy-causing substance like pollen. In combat allergens, your body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This antibody targets special cells known as mast cells present in the mucous lining of your eyes and airways to produce inflammatory substances, such as histamines. Your body’s release of histamine can give rise to a number of allergy signs and symptoms, including red or pink eyes. Dust and animal dander may also cause Allergic conjunctivitis.
If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you may face severe itching, tearing and inflammation of the eyes; as well as itching, sneezing and watery nasal discharge. You may also suffer from swelling of the membrane (called conjunctiva) that lines your eyelids and part of your eyeballs, causing what may look like clear blisters on the whites of your eyes.
It is often seasonal and usually accompanied by other common allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy nose, or scratchy throat. Cold and moist washcloths applied to the eyes and over-the-counter decongestant eye drops can give some relief. Your doctor can also prescribe some stronger medications if these remedies are not sufficient.
Chemical pink eye
Chemical pink eye can occur when any irksome substance enters your eyes. Common offending irritants include household cleaners, sprays of any kind, smoke, foreign objects in the eye, smog, and industrial pollutants.
Quick, thorough washing of the eyes with ample water is essential if an irritating substance enters the eye
In newborns, pink eye may be due to a partly opened tear duct.
Certain Risk factors are related to pink eye. These include:
- Exposure to an allergen for allergic conjunctivitis
- Exposure to someone already infected with the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis may increase the risk of being afflicted with this infection because both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are common among children and are very contagious. Someone having conjunctivitis may be contagious for seven to 14 days after signs and symptoms first appear.
- People using contact lenses, especially extended-wear lenses, may be more prone to conjunctivitis.
When to seek medical advice
Pink eye can be a really troublesome condition, but it’s generally harmless to your sight and normally it doesn’t require extensive or immediate treatment. But keep in mind that pink eye can be highly contagious for as long as two weeks after signs and symptoms appear. So it’s necessary to seek analysis and treatment early.
It is instructed to keep children having bacterial conjunctivitis away from child care institutions or school until they receive treatment. Children affected with viral conjunctivitis may be infectious for several days to as long as a week or more. Ask your doctor if you have any queries regarding when your child can return to school or child care. Most schools and child care facilities may ask your child to wait at least 24 hours after starting treatment before returning to school or child care.
Although pink eye often recovers without treatment, it can be cause an inflammation of the cornea that can affect vision. Therefore an examination by an experienced eye physician is important to decide what management option is suitable for you or your child.
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may collect a sample of eye secretions from the conjunctiva for laboratory examination to find out which form of infection you have and how it should be treated.
If your child suffers from persistent pink eye or eye tearing, your child may have a blocked tear duct. Your child’s pediatrician may closely study the situation to observe if the tear duct opens on its own, or you may be referred to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for further evaluation and treatment.
- Treatments and drugs
- Bacterial conjunctivitis
If your infection is caused by bacteria, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops so that the infection gets clear within several days. Antibiotic eye ointment, instead of eye drops, is sometimes recommended for treating bacterial pink eye in children. An ointment is often easier to apply to an infant or young child than are eye drops, though they may blur vision about 20 minutes after application. With any form of medication, you should detect a marked improvement in signs and symptoms within one to two days. But you should use the medication for the entire period your doctor prescribes to prevent recurrence of this eye infection.
Viral conjunctivitis can’t recover with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. With a common cold, you can use an over-the-counter remedy to mitigate some symptoms, but the virus just has to run its course. You may notice an aggravation of symptoms in the first three to five days. But after that, your signs and symptoms should gradually reduce on their own. It may take up to two to three weeks to recover from the time you were infected by this virus.
If the irritation is allergic conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe suitable eye drop for you. These possibly incorporate antihistamines, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, steroids and anti-inflammatory drops.
Prevention is better than cure
Maintaining good hygiene is the best possible way to limit the spread of pink eye. Once the infection has been diagnosed, just follow the instructions listed below:
- Don’t touch your eyes with your hands.
- Wash your hands properly and frequently.
- Change your towel and washcloth daily, and avoid sharing them with others.
- Change your pillowcase frequently.
- Remove eye cosmetics, particularly mascara.
- Avoid using anyone else’s eye cosmetics or personal eye-care items.
- Abide by your eye specialist’s instructions on proper contact lens care.
- If your child gets infected, prohibit him to come in close contact with other children.
- Many schools send children with conjunctivitis home, and will likely suggest your child to receive at least one full day of treatment before coming back to school.
Preventing pink eye in newborns
Newborns’ eyes are sensitive to bacteria normally present in the mother’s birth canal. These bacteria cause no symptoms in the mother but in rare cases can cause infants to develop a severe conjunctivitis known as Ophthalmia neonatorum. This needs treatment without delay to preserve sight. That’s why soon after birth, every newborn’s eyes are protected with a preventative application of an antibiotic called erythromycin ointment.
You can ease the discomfort of pink eye applying warm compresses to your infected eye or eyes. To prepare a compress, first soak a clean, lint-free cloth in lukewarm water and then squeeze it out before applying it gently to your closed eyelids.
For allergic conjunctivitis, you must avoid rubbing your eyes so that you don’t release more histamine. You can use cool compresses to soothe your eyes. You might also apply specially formulated over-the-counter eye drops namely, Naphcon-A or Opcon-A. These contain an antihistamine and an agent that constricts blood vessels.