There Are 4 Different Kinds of Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane that covers the eye white called the conjunctiva. When this happens, it can make your eyes red, itchy, and irritated. Depending on the variety of pink eye, you can also experience discharge from the eyes. In order to treat this condition properly and safely, you’ll need to determine the kind of conjunctivitis you’re experiencing first.
According to Mayo Clinic here 4 main varieties of pink eye:
- Bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by many different types of bacteria and its characteristic symptom is mucus or discharge that can make your eyes crusty and even make your eyelashes stick together. It typically clears up within 4-5 days, but more serious cases will require a trip to the doctor and treatment with antibiotics.
- Viral conjunctivitis is a common symptom of a cold or any other respiratory viral infection. These infections tend to last longer than bacterial ones and can only be treated symptomatically.
- Allergic pink eye is a common symptom of an allergic reaction. It usually subsides within a day or two after you take allergy medication and minimize contact with the allergen.
- Irritative conjunctivitis is the result of intense rubbing, dry eye, exposure to pollutants like smog, cigarette smoke, or soap. In order to treat this condition, avoid the irritants, and follow the topical treatment tips we list below.
How to Treat Pink Eye
After you’ve determined the cause of the conjunctivitis, you also have to assess its severity. Although most cases can be safely treated at home, more serious and severe cases require medical assistance. The American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO) states you should visit a doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
- You're experience pain
- You have trouble seeing
- Your eyes become sensitive to light
- Your symptoms persist for a week or more
- Your symptoms are getting worse after a few days
- Your eye produces a lot of mucus
- You have a fever or body aches.
If your symptoms are not severe, however, you can safely treat your symptoms at home. Here are some useful tips for treating pink eye at home:
1. Avoid the Cause
The first thing you should do is to avoid the cause of the conjunctivitis, if possible. That means staying away from swimming pools if you suspect chlorine is the cause, closing any open windows if you're suffering from seasonal allergies, and not rubbing your eyes with your hands, no matter what the cause of the condition, as rubbing will only worsen your symptoms and potentially introduce other pathogens.
2. Stop Wearing Contacts and Makeup for a Few Days
Doctors mostly recommend avoiding wearing reusable contact lenses for 10-12 or until the condition clears up in those who suffer from viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, as these can harbor pathogens and be the cause of reinfection in some cases. Makeup wearers should also avoid applying eyeliner, mascara, fake eyelashes, or other eye makeup during any eye infection for the same reasons.
But really, we'd recommend avoiding both of these things for everyone who is experiencing pink eye, not only bacterial and viral cases because both contacts and eye makeup can further irritate the eyes and hinder recovery.
3. Apply Eye Compresses
Depending on the type of pink eye you're experiencing, cold or warm eye compresses can help relieve the discomfort you're experiencing:
- Cold compresses will work well at soothing the itching and irritation if the pink eye is caused by an allergy, irritation, or a virus. To apply a cold compress, simply soak a clean towel or cloth in cold water, remove the excess water by wringing it out, and cover your eyes for a few minutes. You can repeat this process several times a day.
- Warm compresses will be beneficial to those suffering from bacterial conjunctivitis, as they will help loosen and remove mucus from the eye area. Follow the same instructions as in the cold compresses, but use warm water (not too hot, it shouldn't burn to the touch) and keep the compress on until the towel cools down.
4. Use Hydrating Eye Drops
This method works for all cases of conjunctivitis, as lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, will help moisturize, soothe, and flush out any irritants from your eye. Artificial tears are available in all pharmacies over-the-counter. You can use them several times a day, and you can even put them in the fridge to keep them cool and have an even more soothing cooling effect. Importantly, doctors advise against using Visine or other redness-reducing drops if you have pink eye, as these may sting, feel uncomfortable, and even worsen your symptoms.
Lastly, we'd like to give you a few more hygienic tips that will help clear out conjunctivitis faster and prevent it from spreading to others if you have a viral or bacterial pink eye:
1. Don't share towels, pillows, or anything that touches the eyes with others.
2. Use a fresh face towel, pillowcase, and sheets every day until your conjunctivitis is gone.
3. Don't touch your eyes with your hands, and if you do, wash them immediately.