With early diagnosis and intervention, there is a cure for pink eye.
With early diagnosis and intervention, there is a cure for pink eye. Pink eye is the common name for conjunctivitis, an irritation of the clear membrane that lines the white of the eye and the eyelid. Pink eye looks severe, but rarely causes permanent damage. According to KidsHealth, some forms of pink eye are self-limiting, while others need medical intervention. An understanding of the symptoms, causes and diagnosis will aid in curing pink eye through appropriate treatment and palliative care (care that eases symptoms). Treatment of pink eye should also include steps to prevent the spread of pink eye.
Pink eye can occur in one or both eyes. The classic symptom is a red discoloration of the white of the eye. This happens when the tiny blood vessels located in the clear covering of the eye become prominent due to inflammation. Other symptoms include blurry vision, light sensitivity, a grainy sand-like sensation in the eye, itching, tear production and a secretion that dries at nighttime.
The main causes of pink eye include viruses, bacteria, allergens and foreign objects. Viruses and bacteria are the most common sources of pink eye -- bacteria is the most common cause for newborns, viruses for others. Both types are highly contagious for up to 14 days following the first appearance of symptoms. The viral type releases a thin or mucous-like secretion, while pink eye of a bacterial origin produces a viscous, greenish-yellow, puss-like discharge.
Pink eye can also be the result of an allergic response. For example, exposure to ragweed, pollen or poison ivy commonly causes red, itchy eyes and a watery secretion. Foreign objects like contact lenses can cause a form of pink eye called giant papillary conjunctivitis. Blocked or narrowed tear ducts in newborns can result in pink eye, but the ducts usually open and the problem resolves as the child grows.
To determine if a patient has pink eye, a physician will start with an examination of the eyes. The doctor will check for impaired vision, redness, foreign objects and secretions. The inner ears will be examined for infection, which often accompanies bacterial conjunctivitis. The doctor will ask questions about the symptoms experienced and possible contact with others who had pink eye. The examination and inquiry are usually sufficient to make a diagnosis. Sometimes a doctor will take a sample of the secretions using a cotton swab and send them to a laboratory for analysis.
Pink eye caused by bacteria is treated with ophthalmic antibiotic drops or ointment to arrest the bacterial growth and allow the body to eliminate the infection. Some commonly prescribed drugs include bacitracin, ciprofloxacin, sulfacetamide, erythromycin and gentamicin. The medicine is typically administered 3 to 4 times per day for about week. Symptoms usually show improvement in 24 to 48 hours. Children are permitted to return to school and resume other social contacts following one full day of antibiotic treatment.
Viral pink eye cannot be treated with antibiotics. The viral form usually resolves in two to three weeks with only palliative care. Several different types of ophthalmic drops can be used to treat allergic conjunctivitis. Antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers interfere with the bodys allergic response so that redness and itching are diminished. Steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drops provide the added benefits of reducing swelling and secretions.
When foreign objects cause pink eye, the treatment involves removal of the object. Insects or foreign objects like slivers of metal or glass are removed with tissues, cotton swabs or tweezers. Hard contact lenses should be cleaned and stored until the redness subsides. Soft contact lenses should be replaced.
Patients can follow several steps to ease the discomfort of pink eye:
Use warm water and cotton balls to remove crusted secretions.
Flush affected eyes with saline to remove particulate matter and secretions.
Place a warm compress over closed eyelids for viral or bacterial conjunctivitis.
Place a cool compress over closed eyelids for allergic conjunctivitis.
Dim indoor lights and wear sunglasses when outdoors.
Take oral acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain.
The best way to prevent pink eye is to avoid contact with people who have pink eye as well as their belongings. According to Advance for Nurses, pink eye can be transmitted when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. Hands should be washed routinely. Antibacterial wipes and hand cleaners are a good substitute when water is not available. Belongings of individuals with pink eye including make-up, linens and childrens toys should not be shared. The clothing and bedding of infected individuals should be laundered using high temperatures and washed separately from others.
Newborns delivered vaginally are exposed during birth to bacteria that can cause pink eye. An ophthalmic antibiotic ointment like erythromycin is routinely applied to newborns eyes as a preventative measure, according to the Mayo Clinic.