Are your eyes itchy and irritated? Do the whites of your eyes look pink? These are some of the common signs of conjunctivitis or pink eye. Pink eye is a highly contagious eye infection or irritation.
What is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis usually occurs because of inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of the eyeball.
When tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, it makes them more inflamed. One of the most common signs of conjunctivitis is the whites of your eye appear more reddish or pink in color.
There are several reasons you can have conjunctivitis, including a viral or bacterial infection, due to an allergic reaction, or if a baby gets conjunctivitis, a tear duct that is not completely opened.
How Do I Know if I Have Conjunctivitis?
Besides exhibiting a pink or reddish colored eye, common symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Itchiness that occurs in one or both of your eyes
- Experiencing a gritty feeling in one or both of your eyes
- Discharge from one or both of your eyes that forms a crust overnight that may make it difficult to open your eyes in the morning
There are other eye conditions that can cause eye redness that you may need to see a doctor for. If you experience symptoms like eye pain, a foreign body sensation where it feels like something is stuck in your eye, light sensitivity, or blurred vision, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible to rule out other serious eye conditions.
How Does Conjunctivitis Spread?
To control conjunctivitis from spreading further, it is important to practice good hygiene. This includes:
- Washing your hands often
- Do not share towels or washcloths
- Do not touch your eyes with your hands. If you do, make sure to wash your hands after.
- Change your pillowcase regularly
- Remember to throw away eye makeup like mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow on a regular basis
- Never share your eye makeup or other personal eye care items with others
If you have viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, it spreads through direct or indirect contact with the liquid that drains from the eye of someone with conjunctivitis. If you know someone has conjunctivitis, do your best not to come in contact with anything they have touched.
With allergic conjunctivitis, it occurs as a response to an allergy-causing substance like pollen. For someone with allergies, the body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE).
The antibody then triggers mast cells that release inflammatory substances including histamines. As a result of histamine being produced and released by the body, one of the symptoms can be red or pink eyes.
With allergic conjunctivitis, you may experience symptoms like sneezing, watery nasal discharge, tearing, inflammation of the eyes, and intense tearing. You can usually control these symptoms using allergy eye drops to flush the allergen out of your eyes.
Can I Get Conjunctivitis More Than Once?
Yes, you can absolutely get conjunctivitis more than once. Part of this is because there are different kinds of conjunctivitis that you can get.
But besides this, conjunctivitis is highly contagious if you get bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. If you get allergic conjunctivitis, it is the kind that is more likely to recur, particularly if your allergies are bad.