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Prevention of Pink Eye

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Pink eye or conjunctivitis is a common eye infection causing inflammation of the tissues lining the eyelid. Read the article to learn how it can be prevented.

Written by

Dr. Saima Yunus

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shikha Gupta

Published At July 14, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 14, 2023

Introduction:

Pink eye is one of the most commonly occurring eye infections in children and adults, affecting around six million cases of pink eye in the United States every year. Pink eye leads to the inflammation or redness of the conjunctiva, a clear tissue lining the inside surface of the eyelid and outer coating of the eye. This tissue helps retain moisture in the eyelid and eyeball. Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis (infection or inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and eyeball), is caused by allergens, bacteria, irritants, and viruses. Management of pink eye depends on the particular cause and involves eye drops, pills, ointments, water flushes, and comfort care. Pink eye can occur in one eye or both eyes simultaneously.

How Does Pink Eye Appear?

An individual with a pink eye infection or conjunctivitis has a characteristic appearance where the white part becomes light pink to reddish, and puffiness in the eyelids is seen. Further, a fluid or discharge is noticed drooling from the infected eye forming a crust on the eyelashes and eyelids.

Sometimes pink eyes can be confused with a stye because of similar symptoms like sensitivity to light, crusting along the eyelids, and redness of the eye. Pink eye does not cause any bumps in the eyelid or around the eye. However, a stye is a painful, red bump present on or inside of the eyelid close to the edge of the eyelashes caused by an infection in the oil glands on the eyelid.

How Contagious Is Pink Eye?

Pink eye that occurs as a result of viruses or bacteria is highly contagious and can spread easily from one individual to another. This can happen because pink eyes can spread to the patient before the patient even knows. However, pink eyes caused by allergies are not contagious. If pink eye occurs as a result of a viral infection, the individual remains contagious for as long as the symptoms last.

If pink eye occurs from bacteria, the individual is contagious, while the symptoms can be seen until around 24 to 48 hours after initiating the antibiotic treatment. Pink eye can spread through the following:

  • Establishing close contact with an infected person, like touching or shaking hands, can cause the transfer of viruses and bacteria.

  • By touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the eyes before washing hands.

  • Use of old eye makeup or sharing makeup that is contaminated with bacteria or viruses.

How to Prevent Pink Eye Infection?

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is a highly contagious infection that can be transferred from one person to person. This infection can be prevented by adopting the following hygiene practices:

  • Touching or rubbing the eyes must be avoided as it can worsen the condition or spread it to the other eye.

  • Hands must be washed regularly with soap and warm water for around 20 seconds. Hands should be washed properly, especially before and after cleaning the eyes or using eye drops or ointment on the infected eye. In case soap and water are not readily available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60 percent alcohol must be used to clean hands.

  • Wash any discharge oozing from the eye with clean hands at regular intervals during the day with a wet washcloth or fresh cotton ball. These cotton balls must be thrown away after use, and washcloths must be washed with hot water and detergent. After cleaning the eye, the hands must be washed again with soap and warm water.

  • The same eye drop dispenser or bottle must not be used for the infected and non-infected eyes.

  • The bedsheets, pillowcases, washcloths, and towels must be washed regularly with hot water and detergent, and hands must be washed after handling these infected items.

  • The patient must stop wearing contact lenses until the infection has resolved and resume the use after consulting the doctor. Store, clean, and replace the contact lenses as instructed by the eye doctor.

  • The eyeglasses used by the patient must be cleaned properly with hand towels that are not used by other people to prevent contamination.

  • The infected individuals should avoid using swimming pools.

  • The infected person must not share personal items, like pillows, towels, eye or face makeup, makeup brushes, or eyeglasses.

Which Other Infections Are Associated With Pink Eye?

There are some infections that are associated with pink eye that can be prevented through vaccinations. There is no vaccine available for preventing pink eye. However, vaccines can be given for the following viral and bacterial diseases that are associated with pink eye or conjunctivitis:

  • Rubella.

  • Chickenpox.

  • Shingles.

  • Measles.

  • Pneumococcal infection.

  • Hemophilus influenza type B.

What Must Be Done to Relieve the Symptoms of Pink Eye?

Mostly the cases of pink eye are mild, and the symptoms are relieved gradually at home by using non-prescription eye drops or artificial tears to help relieve burning and itching from irritating substances. Other eye drops that might irritate the eyes must not be used. The same bottle should not be used if the other eye is not infected. The following must be practiced to avoid the aggravation of the symptoms:

  • The use of contact lenses must be stopped until the symptoms subside.

  • The face and eyelids must be washed with mild soap or baby shampoo and rinsed with water to remove irritating substances.

  • Cool compresses should be placed on the eyes, and sharing of washcloths or towels with others must be stopped immediately.

Conclusion:

Although pink eye or conjunctivitis is highly contagious, it is usually not a serious condition. The cases are mostly mild to moderate and clear on their own without any treatment. However, in severe cases, treatment is often needed. The treatment can reduce the symptoms and can transfer the infection to others. It usually takes around 14 days for the infection to resolve fully. Pink eye might be experienced again, especially if pink eye is caused due to an allergen. Every time the patient comes in contact with an allergen, a substance that triggers allergies eyes may react.

Dr. Shikha Gupta
Dr. Shikha Gupta

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)

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pink eye
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