The temperatures are falling, and as charming as the changing seasons can be, autumn ushers in an unpleasant reality: sick season.
Cold and flu are often the offending parties this time of year, but we can’t forget about conjunctivitis, another common condition that plagues children and adults alike. That’s right: pink eye.
Types of Conjunctivitis
You may remember the feeling from grade school—irritated, bloodshot eyes that are sore and uncomfortable. Pink eye can also include excessive eye watering, swollen eyelids, burning or itching, eye discharge, and mild light sensitivity. One or both eyes can be affected.
Conjunctivitis can be infectious or non-infectious. Viruses are the most common cause of infectious conjunctivitis. Bacteria are the next most common cause. Non-infectious conjunctivitis can be caused by allergic reactions, chemical exposure, and even contact lens overwear.
Symptoms and Treatment of Conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis is typically highly contagious and easy to spread. It is contracted through viruses associated with the common cold, and can be caught after exposure to an infected person’s cough or sneeze, or from your own respiratory infection. It’s most common in children, but can affect adults as well. Viral conjunctivitis usually produces a watery discharge. Typically the infection starts in one eye and quickly spreads to the other.
Unlike bacterial infections, antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. Fortunately, viral conjunctivitis is usually self-limited, which means it will resolve on its own after a short time. Typically with viral conjunctivitis, the third through the fifth days are the worst. After that, eyes begin to improve on their own.
Treatment of viral conjunctivitis usually involves supportive therapies, such as cool compresses and lubricating drops, as needed. Rarely, viral conjunctivitis can trigger inflammatory responses that can affect vision and require intervention by your eye doctor.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is spread through contact with an infected individual, exposure to contaminated surfaces, or through other means such as sinus or ear infections. Bacterial conjunctivitis usually produces a thick eye discharge or pus. As with other bacterial infections, antibiotics are required to eliminate the bacteria.
Treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis is typically accomplished with topical antibiotic eye drops and/or eye ointments.
Allergic conjunctivitis is triggered by environmental allergens is very common in Austin. The most common symptom of allergic conjunctivitis is itching.
Over-the-counter or prescription eye drops containing antihistamines are often used for treating allergic conjunctivitis. Lubricating drops dilute allergens on your tear film and can be helpful in managing symptoms; cool compresses can also offer temporary relief. Try to limit exposure to the trigger, if known, and avoid rubbing your eyes to keep your symptoms in check.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of conjunctivitis, it’s important to set up an appointment with your eye doctor. Getting an accurate diagnosis will help determine the course of treatment. Check out our conjunctivitis resource for more helpful information.
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