Commonly known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is a highly contagious infection that causes inflammation of the conjunctiva. The inflamed blood vessels become more visible, causing the whites of the eye to look pink. Hence the name “pink eye.”
Pink eye can be caused by a few different things: allergies, a bacterial infection, or a virus. Because it is so contagious, it can be contracted by coming in contact with contaminated surfaces (a doorknob or phone) or skin to skin contact (a handshake or hug).
Symptoms include redness, itching, swelling, excessive tears, and even discharge or crusting. If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately discontinue the use of contacts. Use a cold compress and artificial tears to treat symptoms at home. If the infection is bacterial, antibiotic eye drops can help. An infection caused by allergies can usually be treated with antihistamines. To prevent the spread of the infection, don’t touch your eyes, wash your hands often and change your pillowcase frequently. If you use eye cosmetics like mascara or eyeliner, be sure to throw them away and don’t share them with anyone else.
If symptoms don’t improve within 24 hours, make an appointment with your eye doctor to ensure that it’s not something more serious. While the infection rarely affects vision, you want to make sure it’s taken care of properly to prevent further issues.