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“Pink Eye” Myths: What it is and What it’s not.

August 18, 2022 admin Comments Off

Well, it’s back to school time and that means it’s also time for some germs to be spread and flus to be caught.  This time on Eye to the Future we will be talking about the eye’s contribution to the germ problem with Pink Eye.  The term Pink Eye gets batted around quite a bit in most people’s lexicon.  The problem with this term is that is really doesn’t describe what the problem really is or how a patient’s irritated eye should be monitor/treated or if that patient has the possibility of spreading their eye condition to others.  Therefore, let’s dispel some myths and define some terms.

Conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as Pink Eye, is the technical (but nonspecific term) for any inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva.  The conjunctiva is a thin, clear, slippery tissue that covers the white of the eye and inside of the eyelids.  This tissue is the first line of defense and acts as an overseer against any viruses, microbes, or irritants that get into the eye.  When the conjunctiva senses that the environment on the front of the eye is not healthy or a potential for infection exists, it calls in reinforcements from the rest of the immune system for help and makes the eye look red or pink.  It is important to note that this reaction happens not only against infections, but in ALL instances of eye irritation.

Therefore, a red or pink eye does not mean that you have Pink Eye, or even a conjunctivitis for that matter, it just means that the eye is unhappy for some reason.

If the diagnosis is in fact conjunctivitis, there are three different types of conjunctivitis: allergic, bacterial, or viral conjunctivitis.  Pink Eye is widely considered to be ONLY the viral type.

–        Allergic conjunctivitis is an extremely common occurrence especially around here in the Ohio River Valley.  As the name implies, this is an allergic reaction that happens due to pollen, dust, dander, contact lenses or chemicals (like soaps or makeup).  Commonly this condition presents in both eyes with watering, itching, and a “soggy” eye appearance.  Treatment here is to quell the inflammation and this is accomplished best with prescription eye drops.  Since there is an environmental cause, this conjunctivitis is not contagious.

–        Bacterial conjunctivitis is actually rather uncommon.  True bacterial infections of the conjunctiva present with a sudden swollen, very red eye along with a heavy mucus discharge.  Antibiotics are often given as treatment for conjunctivitis even though a bacterial infection is rarely the cause.  This form can be contagious when a mucous discharge is still present.

–        Viral Conjunctivitis.  Now, here is the true Pink Eye.  Most conjunctivitis is viral in nature and these infections are spread through direct contact.  The worst of these is the adenovirus which quickly spreads through workplaces, households, and schools.  The adenovirus has a latent period of 7-14 days from initial contact with the virus to the start of eye symptoms developing.  Symptoms include redness, watering, itching, and tenderness of the preauricular lymph nodes (the ones just in front of your ear).  Symptoms start in one eye and often spread to the other eye in 3-5 days and failure to seek treatment could result in scarring of the cornea and the possibility of permanently decreased vision.  Treatment for most viral conjunctivitis involve prescription antiviral eye drops and/or in office treatment.  It is EXTREMELY important with ALL viral conjunctivitis to wash your hands frequently and to stay away from work or school until symptoms improve.

We hope this has shed some light on a common but commonly confusing condition.  It is important to reiterate, that a red eye does not necessary mean Pink Eye or even conjunctivitis.  For any red eye it is important to seek treatment from your eye doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment regimen to keep your fellow students, coworkers, and family members safe if the condition is contagious.

Finally… if we are discussing Pink Eye and Myths we should tactfully address one final item.  For the record, performing a certain bodily function on a certain bedding item, while childishly humorous, most certainly DOES NOT spread Pink Eye.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Eye to the Future where we delve into a landmark study on Macular Degeneration that everyone should be aware of: the AREDS (Age Related Eye Disease Study) and how it can prevent blindness.

409 Lafollette Sta S Floyds Knobs, Indiana 47119 contact@precisionfamilyeyecare.com 812-728-8163