What is Pink Eye?

The Dreaded Pink Eye: Uncovering the Mystery of a Common, Yet Potentially Serious, Eye Condition.

What is “pink eye”?  Is it any type of condition where the eye turns a reddish-pink hue?   What causes it?  The phrase “pink eye” is a common term that needs clarification.  The more accurate term is conjunctivitis, which literally means inflammation of the conjunctiva, or the outermost, clear membrane on the white of the eye (sclera).  From where does that inflammation come?

There are many sources of conjunctivitis, including allergies, bacteria, and viruses, which will be the focus of our discussion.  Other factors, such as contact lens overwear, trauma, or dry eyes, can also cause inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Allergic conjunctivitis is usually a bilateral (both eyes) condition, where the primary symptom is itching, along with watery, boggy eyes.  In Middle Tennessee, this is a very common finding.  Treatment includes cool compresses, both oral and topical antihistamine drops, steroid eye drops, and of course, avoidance of the allergen when possible.  Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is characterized by redness, foreign body sensation (the feeling of something in your eye), and a mild-moderate yellowish discharge.  Organisms that cause bacterial conjunctivitis are often common residents of our bodies.  Though it is contagious, it is treatable with a topical antibiotic. It is important to note that the distinction between types of conjunctivitis is imperative.  This ensures that an antibiotic is not unnecessarily prescribed, which can lead to antibiotic resistance where the drug no longer works against bacteria.

What was once classically referred to as “pink eye” is epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, or EKC, which is usually caused by an adenovirus.  Symptoms include itching, burning, “weepy” eyes, and foreign body sensation, which start in one eye and spreads to the other eye a few days later.  It is highly contagious and can be spread from casual contact or from just touching the same things as an infected person.  There is no FDA-approved treatment for EKC, which can be quite frustrating to patients and eye doctors alike, but there is now a test to detect it!  This RPS Adeno Detector helps your eye doctors make a more informed diagnosis in just 10 short minutes.  We are fortunate enough to offer this testing at our office.

It is extremely important that patients seek out an eye care provider if and when any of the above symptoms occur.  While primary care providers are wonderful for general conditions, your eye doctor has been highly trained in this particular area of the body.  Not every pink eye is the same, and your eye doctor is able to use the most up-to-date technology and treatments to manage your conjunctivitis, as well as any other eye care needs.

Are eyes itchy, red, irritated? Contact one of our four convenient office locations today to make an appointment! www.opmt.com