A conjunctive eye infection, also called conjunctivitis or pink eye, is an infection of the membrane that covers the eyelids and part of the eyeball. It is sometimes called "pink eye" because the blood vessels become irritated and start to swell, making the white part of the infected eye look pink.
The symptoms of pink eye are easy to recognize. The eye may start out feeling a little dry or itchy and develop a bloodshot look or a pink cast. The eye may produce more tears than usual or even create a discharge of pus. After you sleep, the eye may feel glued shut with dried pus, generally a sign that your eye may be infected.
There are several different types of pink eye, and the causes differ. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, the most common types, are highly contagious. Conjunctivitis sometimes occurs as the result of a cold or virus. Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when your eyes have a reaction to an allergen in your environment. Many people experience itchy watery eyes with seasonal allergens. Irritation can also cause conjunctivitis. This can result from getting a foreign object or chemical in the eye. Newborn babies can experience conjunctivitis if their tear ducts haven't completely opened.
Treatment of Bacterial Conjunctivitis
Physicians sometimes diagnose conjunctivitis by examination, but may need to run tests on a sample of eye secretions. Conjunctivitis can go away on its own and rarely causes any damage to the eye. However, because it is quite contagious, many doctors prescribe antibiotics in the form of eyedrops for bacterial infections. Usually, marked improvement is noticed in the first couple of days.
Treatment of Viral Conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis should not be treated with antibiotics because it does not involve bacteria. A virus cannot be killed by an antibiotic. The only way to treat a viral infection is to let the virus run its course. Some treatments, such as eye drops and warm moist compresses, can help ease discomfort as the eyes heal.
Good hygiene prevents the most common types of conjunctivitis. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs; not sharing cosmetics or eye drops with other people is another. When children get bacterial or viral pink eye, they should stay home from school or daycare until they are no longer contagious.