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Should I Go to the Eye Doctor for Pink Eye?

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An optometrist examining his patient's eye for signs of conjunctivitis.

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an uncomfortable and irritating eye infection that can affect people of all ages. Commonly known for causing swelling, redness, or itching, pink eye is a condition that can significantly affect your daily life. But do you need to see an eye doctor for pink eye?

Usually, pink eye goes away on its own after 1–2 weeks. However, it does help to seek the expertise of an eye doctor. They can identify what kind of eye infection you’re experiencing and recommend an appropriate treatment plan to bring you relief.

What Is Pink Eye?

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an eye infection that can be caused by several different factors. There are 3 primary forms of this condition and each requires its own form of treatment. These types include:

  • Viral conjunctivitis, which is the most common form. This is caused by a viral infection and is considered highly contagious. This form can spread easily through direct contact with infected individuals and contaminated surfaces.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis, which is caused by exposure to different types of bacteria. This form is also highly contagious. It’s best characterized by a thick discharge that causes the eyes to stick together.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis, which is triggered by an allergic reaction. This form is not contagious and usually affects both eyes simultaneously.

While these 3 are the most common forms of pink eye, they aren’t the only existing variants. It can also be caused by exposure to chemicals or a particularly dusty or smoky environment. It’s important to visit an eye care professional so they can diagnose which form of pink eye you’re experiencing and recommend appropriate treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Pink Eye?

The symptoms of pink eye vary depending on the underlying cause. However, it typically includes some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Redness or swelling around the eyes
  • Itching or burning sensations under the eyelids
  • Excess tear production or watery eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Discharge around the eyes, causing the eyelids to stick together

Viral conjunctivitis, the most common form, may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms like sneezing or a runny nose. On the other hand, bacterial conjunctivitis may produce a thick yellow-green discharge around the eyes.

An optometrist examining his patient's eye for signs of conjunctivitis.

How Is Pink Eye Treated?

The treatment for pink eye depends on the direct cause. While this infection does tend to go away on its own after some time, it often helps to seek the advice of an eye care professional. By receiving an accurate diagnosis of what form of pink eye you’re experiencing, you can make a plan for appropriate treatment.

Viral Conjunctivitis

The viral form of pink eye usually resolves itself within a week or two, and you may find relief through eye drops. It may help to use cold compresses to reduce inflammation and discomfort. In more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medication.

It’s important to maintain good hygiene, like frequently washing your hands and avoiding touching or rubbing your eyes. This can help prevent the spread of infection to others while reducing your risk of re-infecting yourself.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacterial pink eye can be treated through antibiotic eye drops, or through the use of ointments or creams prescribed by a healthcare professional. It’s important to continue taking the antibiotics for as long as they’re prescribed so you can avoid the infection continuing.

It may help to use cold compresses on your eyes to bring yourself some relief, and you should maintain good hygiene. Avoid sharing personal items, like towels or pillowcases, so the bacteria doesn’t spread.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

The allergen-based variant can be treated by avoiding allergens and using antihistamines. Treatment for this form typically involves minimizing your exposure to what could be causing the infection. In some cases, an eye doctor may recommend oral antihistamines to provide you relief. 

Find Treatment for Pink Eye

When it comes to receiving care for pink eye, your first step should be to visit an eye care professional. While the infection usually goes away within a week or two, an optometrist can help determine which form of pink eye you’re experiencing and recommend appropriate treatment. 

At Total Vision Rancho Bernardo, we know how frustrating pink eye can be. Our team of trained professionals has experience in treating conjunctivitis, and we’re here to help you recover. Book an appointment with us today to find the relief you deserve.

Written by Total Vision

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