Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a contagious eye condition caused by the inflammation and infection of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane covering the white part of the eye and the eyeball. Infection and swelling of the the mucous membrane becomes reddish, and the entire white part of the eye may appear pink, coining the name pink eye. This eye condition is very irritating but is not serious enough to affect vision. This eye condition is contagious so early diagnosis and treatment is important to prevent the spread of this disease.
The most common causes of pink eye include:
- Viral infection
- Bacterial infection
- Dry eyes
- Chemical fumes and smoke
Conjunctivitis caused by the infection of the virus and bacteria is infectious and spreads easily from one person to another. An unhealthy habit, like an individual not washing his or her hands properly, is one of the main reasons for the spread of this condition. Some of the other reasons for the spread of this disease include sharing personal things, like towels and other clothes, using certain types of contact lenses, and not properly cleaning contact lenses.
The adenovirus is the most common cause of viral conjunctivitis, which is characterized by redness of the eye, swelling of the eyelids, itching of the eyelids, tearing, and whitish drainage. These symptoms may last for about a week.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is often caused by staph infection, haemophilus influenza type b, and gonorrheal infections. Symptoms of bacterial infections include reddishness of the eye, yellow drainage from the corners of the eye, pain, and swelling of the eyelid. The symptoms may last for up to 10 days if not treated promptly. Antibiotic treatment may reduce the duration of the symptoms to just three or four days.
In most cases, symptoms of pink eye are accompanied by upper respiratory infections. Common allergies, like animal dander, pollen, and dust may also result in pink eye. Regular use of medicated eye drops may also result in eye drop-conjunctivitis, a condition caused by preservatives in the eye drops. Sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia or gonorrhea of the pregnant mother, may result in conjunctivitis in the newborn.