While “pink eye” is the very colorful and accurately descriptive name, conjunctivitis is the name most frequently used in the medical circles. On occasion, pink eye is also referred to as Madras eye. Whether called pink eye, Madras eye or conjunctivitis; it is an infectious or a non-infectious inflammatory condition of the conjunctiva which is the transparent membrane that entirely lines the underside of the eyelid and the white parts of the eyeball. Such an infection or inflammation swells and protrudes the minute blood vessels of the conjunctiva which gives the eye its very vivid coloring where it is white under normal circumstances. Pink eye is rarely a serious condition which can affect vision but, because it is contagious and easily spread, it should be treated as soon as possible.
The causes for pink eye are very many but the most frequently occurring among them are a large variety of bacteria or viruses as well as allergic reactions to any number of irritants or toxic agents. Pink eye can also be caused by clogged tear ducts or by immature tear ducts in newborn infants (inclusion conjunctivitis of the newborn or ICN) and by other underlying conditions within the body at any age.
Pink eye can be severe or it can be mild and it usually begins with only one eye but in most cases it spreads to the other eye as well. The most frequently noted symptoms of pink eye are:
- Discoloring of the white part of the eyeball which can range from pink to very dark pink and even bright red. This discoloration is known as hyperaemia.
- An irritating and persistent itch.
- Noticeable swelling of the eyelids also known as edema.
- Unrelenting pain which is felt most severely when the affected eye is turned upwards or downwards.
- Known as chemosis, the affected eye or eyes have a gritty or sandy feeling as if some foreign particles are present.
- Production of a yellowish or grayish mucopurulent discharge which tends to dry during the night and form a hardened layer that may temporarily glue the eyelids shut.
- Heavy crusting of the entire affected eye and the skin surrounding it.
- Spontaneous and uncontrolled tearing or watering which is also referred to as epiphora.
- Pink eye, particularly the viral type, is often accompanied by an upper respiratory infection or the common cold and sore throat.
Treating and Managing Pink Eye
The method by which pink eye is treated depends on its cause. If the pink eye is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotic eye drops or ointments are prescribed and the conditions should be cleared within a few short days.
Much like the case with the common cold or the flu, pink eye caused by a viral infection simply needs to be left to run its course which may last up to two or three weeks. However, over the counter eye drops may be administered to relieve some of the unpleasant symptoms.
If it is determined that the pink eye is due to an allergic reaction, any number of eye drops may be prescribed and those may include antihistamines, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, steroids and/or anti-inflammatory.
Usually Conjunctivitis is completely clear in 2 weeks. If you are still experiencing symptoms after 14 days, consult your doctor immediately.