Conjunctivitis is a broad term that describes infection or inflammation of the eyes. While most people think of the bacterial or viral infection of the eye known as pink eye, conjunctivitis can also be caused by allergies (known as allergic conjunctivitis) or irritants like smoke. Below we review how to tell the difference between pink eye and allergic conjunctivitis.
What Is Pink Eye?
Pink eye may be viral or bacterial.
Viral conjunctivitis is the most common form of pink eye, and it’s highly contagious. In fact, according to the CDC, “Public school kids in the U.S. miss 3 million school days each year as a result of pink eye.” Symptoms include red eyes, itchiness and watery discharge. While there is no real cure, it can be managed with cool compresses and artificial tears. Viral conjunctivitis often goes along with a cold and usually passes within a week or two; however, if you rub the eyes too much, it can progress to bacterial conjunctivitis.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is less common than the viral version, though it’s still contagious. Symptoms differ from viral conjunctivitis, and include redness and crusty discharge, not itchiness. Most cases of bacterial conjunctivitis are treated with antibiotic eye drops.
What Is Allergic Conjunctivitis?
Allergic conjunctivitis is a common symptom for people with hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. In addition to congestion, runny nose and sneezing, you may experience red, itchy, watery and/or puffy eyes. Treatment may include over-the-counter eyedrops from Little Five Points Pharmacy, antihistamines, steroids or immunotherapy.
How Can Conjunctivitis Be Prevented?
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can be prevented by:
- Washing your hands often.
- Avoiding rubbing your eyes.
- Not sharing makeup, especially eyeliner or mascara.
- Using clean tissues to wipe your face and eyes.
- Washing your pillowcases frequently.
- Cleaning and replacing contact lenses often.
- Washing your hands before touching your eyes.
Allergic conjunctivitis can be prevented by managing your allergies. You can talk to an allergist at ENT of Georgia North to learn the best solution for your particular needs following an allergy test.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call ENT of Georgia North today.