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Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye is a common childhood affliction, but this doesn’t mean it should not be taken seriously. Symptoms of pink eye often mimic those of other eye conditions. Children with suspected pink eye should be examined by an experienced pediatric ophthalmologist. At Fraser Eye Care, Dr. Lucas Bonafede is highly experienced in working with our youngest patients and can help them feel at ease as he diagnoses and treats pink eye and other conditions.

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the eye. The pink or red appearance of the whites of the eyes associated with conjunctivitis is a result of inflammation of the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva.1

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Symptoms of pink eye may include:

  • Red or pink appearance to the whites of the eyes
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Watery discharge
  • Pus or yellow discharge
  • Matted eyes
  • Soreness or painful eyes
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Increased sensitivity to light2
toddler face with one eye closed

Causes of Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Pink eye can be caused by a number of factors. The most common causes of pink eye are:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Allergies

Other potential causes of conjunctivitis include:

  • Chemicals
  • Foreign bodies in the eye
  • Air pollution, like smoke or dust
  • Contact lens wear
  • Fungi
  • Parasites and ameba3

In newborns, a blocked tear duct or infection is sometimes the cause of pink eye. Infants are treated with an antibiotic ointment that is applied to their eyes shortly after birth to help prevent an infection that may lead to conjunctivitis. Pink eye in a newborn, also known as neonatal conjunctivitis, can be serious and needs to be treated promptly.4

Treatment for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Treatment for pink eye varies according to the cause.

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
  • Viral conjunctivitis does not respond to antibiotics. Antiviral medications may be used when the infection is caused by a virus like the herpes simplex virus, but in cases of viral conjunctivitis, treatment is mostly focused on symptom relief.
  • Allergy drops can help ease pink eye caused by allergies.
  • Neonatal conjunctivitis, or pink eye in newborns, is usually treated with antibiotics and saline solution eye rinses.

Frequently Asked Questions About Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

How long is pink eye contagious?
Pink eye caused by a virus or bacteria can be highly contagious, which is why it can travel so quickly between small children who may not be as hygienic as adults. A good rule of thumb is to treat pink eye as contagious for as long as symptoms like tearing and matted eyes are present, which can lasts days to weeks depending on the cause.

How can I prevent the spread of conjunctivitis (pink eye)?
Good hygiene is key to preventing the spread of pink eye. Some tips:

  • Wash hands with soap, often
  • Avoid rubbing or touching the eyes. If you need to rub, use a clean, wet wash cloth or paper towel, then wash your hands afterwards.
  • Do not use the same bottle of eye drops for infected eyes and non-infected eyes.
  • Wash wash cloths, pillow cases, sheets, and towels in hot water and detergent.
  • Do not share items likely to spread pink eye, like washcloths, towels, pillows, eye drops, eye glasses, or makeup brushes.5 Make sure that you clean these items or discard them if they are unable to be properly cleaned.

How can I ease my child’s discomfort from conjunctivitis (pink eye)?
Pink eye can be uncomfortable, and even with treatment for bacterial or allergic conjunctivitis, symptoms can last for days to weeks. To help a child with pink eye stay comfortable, use a cool washcloth to apply a compress to the affected area. This should ease itching and burning, and will also help clear away dried mucus. Be sure to use a clean washcloth every time and wash used washcloths with hot water and detergent. Lubricating and anti-allergy eye drops may be recommended to help with management of symptoms. In some cases, antibiotic or steroid medications may be prescribed.

Contact Fraser Eye Care in Detroit and Royal Oak

If your child has red, itchy, watery eyes or significant discharge from his or her eyes, it is possible that pink eye is the culprit. Dr. Bonafede at Fraser Eye Care can diagnose and treat pink eye in children. To schedule a consultation, please contact us.

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Trused Source Icon - Checkbox Sources

1 Mayo Clinic. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis). Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pink-eye/symptoms-causes/syc-20376355. Accessed September 1, 2021.

2 American Academy of Ophthalmology. Conjunctivitis: What is Pink Eye? Available: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/pink-eye-conjunctivitis. Accessed September 1, 2021.

3 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). Available: https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/causes.html. Accessed September 1, 2021.

4 U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conjunctivitis in Newborns. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/newborns.html. Accessed September 1, 2021.

5 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) Prevention. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/prevention.html. Accessed September 1, 2021.

Dr. Lucas Bonafede has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.

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