Conjunctivitis: What is Pink Eye and How Can I Avoid It?

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Conjunctivitis, or “Pink Eye” as it is more commonly known, is a common eye problem that can be treated relatively easily and avoided using a few simple precautions.

Pink eye is something anyone can develop, but it is seen more prominently among younger age groups where children are less cautious about exposure to germs. Students in schools of all levels are at an increased risk because of the increased levels of exposure to germs from other students, this makes it hard for teachers to avoid as well.

What is “Pink Eye?”

Pink eye occurs when the clear covering on the white of the eye—this is called conjunctiva—becomes inflamed. Despite being transparent, the conjunctiva actually contains blood vessels that overlay the sclera of the eye. When something causes inflammation in the eye the blood vessels in the conjunctiva dilate causing your eyes to become red and “bloodshot.”

Conjunctivitis can have several causes (see below), but many eye doctors use the term “pink eye” to refer only to viral conjunctivitis, a highly contagious infection caused by a variety of viruses.

Conjunctivitis can be caused by a multitude of different things, but there are precautions you can put in place to reduce your risk of having to deal with this irritating eye affliction:

  • Avoid sharing items you wash your face with such as hand towels, washcloths, and tissues.
  • Remember to cover your mouth and nose when coughing and/or sneezing and then make sure to not rub or touch your eyes.
  • Never under any circumstances should you share your contact lenses with a friend.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently, particularly if you are spending time at a public place where germs are more widespread.
  • Always keep some hand sanitizer handy and use it when you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Clean surfaces that regularly are exposed to a lot of bacteria such as bathroom vanities, sink handles, phones, and kitchen countertops with the proper antiseptic cleaner.
  • Be wary of your allergies. Pollen can cause your eyes to become very irritated and can bring on symptoms of conjunctivitis. Ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your allergy symptoms.
  • If you are a contact wearer it is important that you follow your eye doctor’s instructions to the letter in regards to lens care and placement. Make sure to use contact lens solution regularly for your re-usable lenses or consider switching to daily disposables.
  • Always wear goggles while swimming to protect your eyes from bacteria and other microorganisms that reside in the water, these have been known to cause conjunctivitis.
  • Before bathing yourself always be sure to remove your contact lenses so that bacteria doesn’t get trapped between your eyes and the contact lenses.

If you believe you might be developing a case of Pink Eye, make sure to call your Eye Doctor so that the proper treatment can be prescribed.

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