Remember the fear of pink eye back when you were in grade school? Few maladies created such dread and uncertainty as pink eye. If you were unlucky enough to come down with it, teachers, parents and everyone else in a position of authority instructed your classmates to avoid you like the plague. Likewise, if your friend showed up Monday morning with pink eye, it was a good bet that you wouldn’t make any close contact with that person until the end of the week, or at least until symptoms subsided.
In many ways, pink eye was one of the first “urban legends” in the realm of scary schoolday diseases. But the truth about pink eye is much less frightening. This blog will look at what pink eye actually is, and also review some common symptoms associated with the ailment.
Why All the Conjecture about Conjunctivitis?
Pink eye is very common, yet widely misunderstood. Millions of cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and millions more are self-diagnosed. The proper medical term for pink eye is conjunctivitis, but that word is rarely (if ever) used.
The accepted definition for pink eye is eye inflammation – specifically, inflammation of the inside of the eyelids (medical term: conjunctiva) and also inflammation of the covering of the white of the eye. This colorless, barely recognizable film can become irritated due to immune responses to bacteria and viruses. Although the conjunctiva is clear, it has tiny blood vessels that become red and swollen. The conjunctiva inflammation is what actually causes the eye to appear pink (and sometimes red), hence the term “pink eye.”
Causes of Conjunctivitis
There are a handful of situations that can cause pink eye. Allergies can play a role, especially during seasonal changes. Overly dry eyes (too much sun, wind, etc.) can also bring on conjunctivitis. Chemical conjunctivitis is exactly what it sounds like: pink eye brought about by exposure to harmful chemical compounds. But two other causes are the most common: bacteria and viruses.
Pink eye from a virus (viral conjunctivitis) and bacteria spreads easily, particularly among the unsuspecting. The very early stages of pink eye might not manifest itself with the telltale pink / red swollen eyes, so close contact is a major catalyst in the spread of pink eye. Once it has been established that viral or bacterial pink eye is present, a mini-quarantine takes place, similar to those scenarios back in grade school. Yes, it turns out the teacher was correct about spreading pink eye through direct contact.
Sharing a towel, shaking hands and other forms of contact can cause pink eye to spread quickly, so common sense measures should be followed, including frequent handwashing and avoiding unnecessary contact.
Pink Eye Symptoms – Do I Have Pink Eye?
- Eye pain, especially around the eyelid area
- Itchy eyes
- Burning sensation when blinking
- Extremely dry eyes
- Eye discoloration (pink or red hue in the white of your eye)
- White or clear pus draining from eye
- Excessive tearing (usually follows extended period of dry eyes)
If you wear contact lenses, you should discontinue use and wear eyeglasses until the pink eye goes away. Viral or bacterial conjunctivitis can last anywhere from 5-6 days to 3-4 weeks, and certain irritants (contact lenses, fatigue, etc.) can prolong pink eye symptoms.
Effective home remedies exist, but it is recommended to see your doctor to properly diagnose and treat the disease. While waiting for your appointment (remember, you don’t have to wait for appointments at Urgent Care Extra – just walk right in) or before your visit to the doctor’s office, a cold or warm compress can help reduce swelling and pain. You can also gently wipe any discharge from your eyes with a moist, warm towel.
Pink eye is an irritating yet highly treatable medical condition, and your local Urgent Care Extra can assist you today. Don’t wait for a primary care physician appointment – just walk right in to any one of our many healthcare facilities throughout Arizona. Convenient hours, flexible payment options and – most importantly – effective treatment make UCE your preferred clinic for the cure to conjunctivitis.
To find out more information on Urgent Care Extra, or to speak directly with one of our walk-in healthcare clinic professionals, please call our main office at (480) 988-9108.