Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

This term describes a group of disorders that cause swelling, itching, burning, and redness of the conjunctiva, the protective membrane that lines the eyelids and covers exposed areas of the sclera, or white of the eye.

Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, allergy, environmental irritants, a contact lens product, eyedrops, or eye ointments. Conjunctivitis can spread from one person to another if it is related to an infection, particularly from a virus. It is not contagious if it is allergy based or from an irritant.

If the pink eye is suspected of being caused by a virus, then you need to take care not to spread it. Wash hands frequently and keep your hands away from your eyes. Don't share towels or other objects that could also transmit the infection. No medication is currently effective against the viruses that cause pink eye.

If the redness is bacterial, then an antibiotic drop will be prescribed to bring the infection under control. Again, keep your hands away from your eyes and wash them often throughout the day.

If the redness is caused by a small foreign object that has lodged itself onto the eye, I can remove the object at my office, using anesthetic eye drops so that you are completely comfortable.

At its onset, conjunctivitis is usually painless and does not adversely affect vision. The infection will clear up by itself in most cases. But for some forms of conjunctivitis, treatment will be needed. If treatment is delayed, an infection may worsen and cause corneal inflammation and a loss of vision. For this reason, I recommend that you see your eye doctor, if your red eye doesn’t clear up within a couple hours—just to play it safe.