Conjunctivitis (more commonly known as “pink eye”) is very contagious, but professional medical attention is not always necessary. You may have heard scary stories about pink eye, but before you run away from your friend’s bloodshot eyes, let’s get some facts straight.

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva in the eye. Your conjunctiva is the thin, clear lining of the inside of your eyelid. It covers your sclera, which is the white part of your eye. When this part is inflamed, blood vessels become more visible, giving your eye a pinkish look.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

• Swelling
• Feeling like there’s a foreign object in your eye
• Sensitivity to bright light
• Itchy or burning sensation
• Swollen lymph node in front of the ear
• Discomfort when wearing contact lenses, or contact lenses that don’t stay in place

Conjunctivitis can be caused by a variety of things, including viruses, bacteria, allergens, and irritants.

1. Viral conjunctivitis tends to show up in both eyes and is often partnered with the common cold or other respiratory infection.
2. Bacterial conjunctivitis typically affects a single eye and may be accompanied by an ear infection.
3. Allergic conjunctivitis usually occurs in both eyes and will coincide with other allergy symptoms like sneezing and an itchy nose.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.

How is conjunctivitis treated?

Most people recover from conjunctivitis on their own, but medicine for symptom relief, such as artificial tears, may be useful. Newborn babies are required to receive erythromycin eye drops, a type of antibiotic when they arrive at the hospital.

If your doctor prescribes you with an antibiotic, you can find substantially cheaper medicine online at Canadian Pharmacy Service. There, you can connect with pharmacies in countries where drug prices are significantly lower. If your bacterial conjunctivitis is treated promptly with antibiotics, it should clear up within a few days.

How serious is conjunctivitis?

Most of the time, conjunctivitis is not serious. But it depends on the germ that caused it. For example, being infected with certain bacteria like Staphylococcus aureas or Streptococcus pneumonia is a common reason why children are prescribed to stay home from school.

Usually, if you have conjunctivitis with no fever or other symptoms, it’s okay to go back to work or school. Get your doctor’s approval beforehand to make sure it’s safe for others to be near you.

Treatment for More Serious Forms of Conjunctivitis

Some manifestations of conjunctivitis are more serious than others. For example, if you have viral conjunctivitis caused by the herpes simplex virus or the varicella-zoster virus, you may need to be treated with antiviral medication. Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics to patients with bacterial conjunctivitis to reduce the risk of infecting others.

When It’s Serious Enough to See a Doctor

If your newborn shows signs of conjunctivitis, find medical help right away. Immunocompromised individuals (such as HIV-positive patients), and people with other medical conditions or treatments (including those undergoing cancer treatment) should also seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Otherwise, if you experience any of the following symptoms, see your doctor:

• Moderate to severe eye pain
• Vision problems, such as blurry vision, that doesn’t go away even when you wipe away the discharge
• Very intense redness
• Worsening or persisting symptoms, especially if you suspect viral conjunctivitis

How can I prevent conjunctivitis?

While it’s easy to transmit viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, there are simple steps you can take to minimize your chance of getting infected or infecting others:

• Wash hands frequently.
• Wash hands immediately after handling an affected person’s clothes or eyes.
• Do not touch or rub your eyes.
• Clean and store your eyeglasses and contact lenses appropriately.
• Do not share towels and pillowcases, make-up, or eyewear.
• Don’t use the same eye-dropper for infected and un-infected eyes (even when it’s the same person’s eyes).
• If you’ve been infected, regularly wash away eye discharge.

If you recently recovered from conjunctivitis, avoid re-infection by disposing of any make-up, contact lenses (including cases and solutions), and make-up applicators that may have come into contact with your infection. Clean your eyeglasses and eyeglass cases as well.

Even if your eye infection is not severe enough to quarantine you at home, having to deal with swollen, uncomfortable, red eyes is no fun at work or school! Consider staying home to recover, and remember to exercise better eye hygiene in the future.

Author's Bio: 

Alison Lee is a freelance writer in Vancouver, Canada. She enjoys writing about finance, health and medicine, among other topics.