What exactly is pink eye?

To start, there are a few different types of pink eye:

Pink eye related to bacterial eye infections can cause a lot of swelling and produce sticky green discharge, resulting in eyes that are often ‘glued’ shut in the morning. Bacterial eye infections are more commonly seen in contact lens wearers and can result from our skins own bacteria.

Pink eye related to viral infections is by far the most common cause, and is caused by the same virus that results in the common cold. Viral pink eye will usually result in a watery eye with little to no discharge, but may still be crusted shut in the morning. Viral pink eye is the most contagious of all pink eyes, which is why it hangs out in preschools, daycares and work environments.

Pink eye related to allergies is more common after coming in contact with allergens and is often associated with other physical symptoms like stuffy nose, itchy skin or swollen eyes. People often complain of itching and may want to rub their eyes.

Pink eye can also be related to some more serious eye conditions like scleritis, uveitis, or iritis. These conditions require more urgent care, and will generally not resolve on their own if left untreated.

Regardless of the cause of your pink eye, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis by your optometrist to ensure that the treatment matches the condition. Please don’t touch anyone until you see us, and we’ll let you know if you are contagious.

Please Note: Alberta Health Care now covers the cost of emergency eye care visits to your optometrists office – there is no charge to you as a patient. 

Eye Care Question of the Week: #4

Question:

What is pink eye?

 

Answer:

Pink eye is a general term used to describe the appearance of a red swollen looking eye. An eye can become inflamed or ‘pink’ for a number of reasons including: allergies, viral and bacterial infections, chemical irritants, or because of an underlying disease process.

In general however, ‘pink eye’ is most often used to describe a viral eye infection. Viral eye infections are one of the most common eye infections that optometrists and ophthalmologists encounter. Patients often present with sinus infections, runny noses or other cold like symptoms. Eyes often take on a pinkish hue, water excessively and become light sensitive. Symptoms are usually the worst within the first 3-5 days, with most symptoms resolving within 1-2 weeks.

Because viral pink eye can be extremely contagious, therefore it must be detected and treated properly. Patients should not go to work, school, or day care until they visit an eye doctor to confirm the diagnosis.

 

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