WHY DO PEOPLE GET PINK EYE?

Dr. Jim Martin 09/17/2013

Older_Man_Red_Eye.jpgHave you or a family member ever gotten pink eye? The affected person usually has one or both eyes inflamed. The white parts of the eye are a bright pink or red. The eye can have a feeling like grit or dirt is in it and can have a yellow type discharge coming out. This is a common occurrence with children especially, but can infect people of all ages. Pink eye causes redness, itchiness, swelling, watery eyes and sometimes drainage.

Eye doctors often see patients of all ages with pink eye (also known as conjunctivitis). The conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that lines the underside of the eyelid and the white part of the eye. This membrane allows the eyelid to slip seamlessly over the surface of the eye when you blink. A healthy conjunctiva is usually clear. With this condition, the appearance changes dramatically.

What are the Symptoms of Pink Eye?

Each person may have different symptoms due to pink eye. Here are the most typical ones found with people who have this common eye condition:

  • The surface of the eye takes on a red or pinkish hue

  • Swollen eyelids

  • Gritty or sandy feeling in the affected eye

  • Tearing

  • Thick yellow discharge

  • Itchy eyes

Pink eye can be contagious or non-contagious depending on the cause. The contagious form comes from viral and bacterial infections. The non-contagious form happens with dry eyes, allergies, or exposure to chemicals, fumes or smoke. Because the contagious form is more common, always assume conjunctivitis is spreadable unless a doctor says otherwise. Entire families can become infected without precautions.

Remember, pink eye can affect anyone. However, children are the ones that eye doctors see most often for this condition because they do not take the precautions adults do when it comes to potential infection. Children don’t consider the dangers in sharing things among themselves. If one child is infected, it is very easy for pink eye to spread to playmates, siblings, and other family members.

How to Avoid Pink Eye

How do you and your children avoid the spread of pink eye? When someone in your household has conjunctivitis, you need to go into containment mode immediately. The affected person needs to see an eye doctor. The eye doctor can tell if the condition is contagious or non-contagious. The doctor can also prescribe medications to help clear the problem and reduce symptoms.

If someone outside the household has the condition, such as your child’s classmate at school, contact with that person needs to be minimized while they have an active infection. This will help prevent anyone in the household from getting the infection.

What Else Can I Do to Prevent Pink Eye?

Here are some more tips on how to avoid catching and spreading pink eye.

  • The patient and the caregiver needs to avoid touching the eye unless applying medications or clearing away discharge.

  • Use disposable tissues when clearing away discharge and trash them immediately.

  • The patient cannot share items with anyone while infectious. This includes toys, towels, handkerchiefs, makeup, toothpaste containers, glasses, or eating utensils. Disinfect all items frequently.

  • Disinfect surfaces throughout the house. This can include, but is not limited to, countertops, sinks, and doorknobs.

  • Launder towels, bedding, and clothing often in hot water.

  • Frequent hand washing with disinfectant soap should become the rule for everyone in the household until the infection clears. Use of hand sanitizer is another option, but does not replace hand washing.

  • Throw out any eye makeup used by the infected person.

  • Disinfect eyeglasses every day while the infection is active and for a while afterwards.

  • Discard contact lenses worn during or prior to the diagnosis.

How Do I Treat Pink Eye?


Pink eye isn’t fun for anyone. You wouldn’t even wish it on your worse enemy! It’s painful and not pleasant to look at in all honestly. If infected, seeking prompt medical attention is the best option. An eye doctor can prescribe medication to reduce symptoms and help fight the infection. In many cases, the infection will take a few days to clear and become non-infectious. Knowing about conjunctivitis is the first line of defense against getting it and spreading it. The eye doctors and eye care team at Broome Optical in Amarillo, Texas can treat you and your children for pink eye, so don’t hesitate to call these eye care professionals today if you are noticing pink eye symptoms.

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