What is pinkeye?
Pinkeye is an infection that affects the covering of the eyeball and the inside of the eyelid. It is usually caused by a virus, but it can be caused by bacteria. Pinkeye is more common in children but it can infect people of all ages.
What are the symptoms of pinkeye?
Symptoms include a scratchy feeling or pain in the eyes. The infection turns the whites of the eyes pink or red. There may be a lot of tearing and pus that makes the eyelids stick together. In some cases, there is sensitivity to bright light and swelling of the eyelids.
You should see a health care provider if the illness seems to be causing more serious symptoms.
How is pinkeye spread?
Pinkeye is very contagious and can spread easily. It is spread by direct contact with the discharge from the infected eye, or indirectly from an object that is contaminated such as a tissue that has been used to wipe the eye. Sometimes when a person has a virus such as a common cold, droplets from a sneeze or cough can also spread to the eye, causing pinkeye.
How is pinkeye treated?
Pinkeye caused by bacteria can be treated and cured with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Antibiotics can also stop the infection from spreading to others.
Warm water compresses can be used to help remove any crusting caused by the discharge.
There is no treatment for pinkeye caused by a virus, but it usually goes away on its own.
You can treat mild symptoms at home.
How is pinkeye prevented?
- When wiping tears or discharge from the eyes, wipe from the inside out and in one direction only. Use a clean part of the cloth each time.
- Do not rub your eyes. This will cause irritation and can spread the infection from one eye to the other.
- Do not share towels, washcloths, or pillowcases with anyone else until the infection has cleared.
- If you are around someone with pinkeye, avoid touching any items that they have touched.
- If your child’s eyes have discharge or pus, your child should not go back to school or daycare until he or she has taken antibiotics for 1 full day.
Simple preventative measures can reduce the spread of infection.