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Red, Stinging Eyes? You Might Have Pink Eye

Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is a frequently encountered eye illness, especially in children. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or even sensitivities to pollen, chlorine in pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants, which come into contact with the eyes. Certain kinds of conjunctivitis are quite contagious and easily cause a conjunctivitis outbreak in schools and at the home or office.

Pink eye ensues when the thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. You'll be able to recognize the infection if you notice discharge, itching, redness or inflamed eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes in the morning. Conjunctivitis infections can be divided into three basic types: bacterial, allergic and viral conjunctivitis.

The viral type is often caused by a similar virus to that which produces the familiar red and watery eyes, runny nose and sore throat of the common cold. Symptoms of the viral form of conjunctivitis will usually be present for seven to fourteen days and like other viruses cannot be treated with medication. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral conjunctivitis is contagious until it's gone, so in the meantime remove any discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral pink eye, he or she will have to be kept home from school from school for three days to a week until they are no longer contagious.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. Usually one should see the symptoms disappearing within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from recurring.

Conjunctivitis due to allergies is not transmittable. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as pollen, pet dander or smoke that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. The first step in alleviating conjunctivitis that is due to allergies is to eliminate or avoid the irritant, when applicable. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to alleviate discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be prescribed. When the pink eye lasts for an extended period, topical steroid eye drops may be used.

Conjunctivitis should always be checked out by an experienced eye doctor to determine the cause and optimal course of treatment. Don't ever self prescribe! Remember the earlier you start treatment, the less chance you have of spreading conjunctivitis to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.