Winter is here, which means people are stuck indoors in close proximity to one another — let the germ- spreading begin! One such illness that is easy to spread in these conditions is conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a common and contagious condition which results in red, sometimes painful and itchy eyes. While viruses are the most common culprit for pink eye, the infection can also be due to exposure to bacteria or allergens. Because pink eye is a fairly common condition with more than 3 million cases in the US per year, we want you to be better prepared in the event you’re unlucky enough to pick it up. Let’s jump right into how contagious pink eye is, how it spreads, what treatments are available and when to see your optometrist.
How Contagious is Conjunctivitis?
Pink eye is known to be easily spread. You are contagious from the moment symptoms present themselves. Common symptoms include red, itchy eyes and jelly-like discharge that dries into crust if left uncleaned. Conjunctivitis typically lasts anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks, but more serious cases can sometimes linger for longer. You are contagious so long as symptoms are present or for 24 hours after taking antibiotics. Keep in mind antibiotics are only effective if your case of pink eye is caused by bacteria.
How Is Pink Eye Spread?
Conjunctivitis spreads in the same way other bacterial and viral infections are spread — by contact. Because pink eye is itchy and irritating, it’s difficult to keep from rubbing the affected eye. Unfortunately, once you rub your eye, anything you touch may become contaminated. For example, if you rub your eye and touch a door knob, the next person that uses that same door knob can pick up the virus. If you have conjunctivitis you should wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Remember, you can spread pink eye from one eye to the other, so it’s best to keep your hands away from your face until symptoms clear.
Treatment & When to Contact Your Optometrist
Typically pink eye goes away on its own within two weeks. The best thing you can do during this time is take steps toward symptom relief. Because pink eye can cause painful inflammation, it is recommended to use a cold compress 2 to 3 times a day for 10 minutes each time. This will help lessen inflammation and sooth the itchy sensation that comes with the illness. A compress is especially useful first thing in the morning. Pus and discharge crusts up over night making it difficult to open your affected eye. By applying a damp cloth to your afflicted eye will make removing crusted discharge less painful.
Preservative-free lubricating eye drops can help flush discharge and sooth itchiness and irritation in the eye as well. Keep eye drops handy and re-apply throughout the day when necessary.
If at any point the pain or itchiness from pink eye becomes unbearable, you should contact your optometrist. Your optometrist will know whether to give you antibiotic eye drops or if you should be taking additional steps to relieve conjunctivitis symptoms. If you have a history of eye disease or other eye-related issues, it is best to contact your optometrist as soon as symptoms appear. If your newborn seems to have pink eye, visit your pediatrician immediately.
While pink eye is a frustrating illness, most cases will not cause long-term complications. Remember, it is always best to consult your doctor before taking new medications. If you believe you have pink eye symptoms and would like to see an optometrist, contact us to schedule an appointment here: https://www.neweraeyecare.com/locations.html