I am always being asked by family and friends if I can treat their pink eye. The phrase ‘pink eye’ is often used to describe the appearance the eye(s) when they are, well, pink. However, when an eye appears less white than normal it can be its way of letting you that something is not quite right. The redness can be caused by numerous things that can include a type of infection, allergies, dry eye syndrome, and many others.
Allergic conjunctivitis affects numerous individuals during the spring and fall seasons. Affected individuals will mostly complain of itchy, watery eyes. They may also have systemic symptoms such as a running nose and sneezing. This form of conjunctivitis is treated with ocular antihistamine drops that can be purchased in an over-the-counter form. For more severe presentations, however, topical prescription medications and an oral antihistamine may be necessary.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is one cause of red eyes. Patients will not only have red eyes, but there will be some ocular discomfort and possibly a discharge coming from the eye. This is a contagious form of red eye; therefore proper sanitary precautions should be taken to prevent spreading it to others. Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis will consist of the use of antibiotic drops several times a day for several days.
Dry eye syndrome is another common cause of red eyes. Because the ocular surface is dry, it becomes irritated. Because it is irritated, the tiny blood vessels in the eye become inflamed, leading to red eyes. Patients will complain of feeling ocular dryness and possibly lots of tearing. This tearing is in response to the ocular irritation and doesn’t mean your eyes aren’t dry. In order to remedy this vicious cycle, the simplest thing to do is use lubricant eye drops. This will provide some relief to the irritated ocular surface and potentially alleviate the redness and decrease the tearing. There are more aggressive treatment options that can be utilized when lubrication isn’t sufficient.
These are only a few of the vast number of reasons a person may have what is called ‘pink eye’. In order to be properly diagnosed and receive effective treatment, an eye care professional should be seen.