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Pink eye is the term commonly used to denote a bout of conjunctivitis. It basically means an inflammation of the clear layer covering the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. This inflammation can be caused by many different things, however the most recognizable symptom remain a reddish bloodshot eye.
Pink eye is an extremely common condition, and the one variant which most people suffer from is viral in origin. This is also the type of conjunctivitis that is self-limiting and relatively harmless although it is quite contagious. What most people do not know about is that there are some forms of pink eye which can be damaging and require a closer inspection.
Causes Of Pink Eye
Some of the common causes of Pink Eye are:
- Infection (Viral/Bacterial)
- Irritants and toxic elements in contact with the eye
- Dry eyes
Some people erroneously believe that all kinds of pink eye are contagious, however that is only true for infectious conjunctivitis. Infectious conjuctivities most conmmonly spreads from one person to another through the hands, which are not washed after rubbing the eyes. Sharing a towel or any other piece of cloth to wipe the eyes can also result in spreading the infection.
Children, who often lack an understanding of proper norms of hygiene and spend a lot of time in close proximity to one another, are especially vulnerable to infectious conjuctivitis.
Pink Eye Symptoms
The most common symptoms seen with Pink Eye are:
- Redness of the eyes as the name Pink Eye suggests
- Watering of the eyes
- Swelling of the eyes due to constant rubbing and wiping
- Discharge from the eyes
Pink Eye Differential Diagnosis
It is difficult to identify the exact nature of pink eye, however there are certain symptoms that give a clue to the doctor. An increased amount of discharge from the eye is often seen in bacterial conjunctivitis as compared to one of viral origin. This discharge may be whitish or greenish in color.
The severity of pain too is increased in bacterial pink eye. This however is extremely subjective, so doctors can't rely on patients' descriptions of pain too much during the diagnostic process. The possible complications are much worse with a bacterial infection of the eye, and so many doctors will prescribe a full course of antibiotics if they have a slight doubt that the cause may be bacterial rather than viral.
It is always better to err on the side of caution.
Another thing that your doctor will do is do a visual examination of your eye and make sure that no foreign object has got lodged in it. While it is uncommon for a patient to be unaware of an uncomfortable sensation in the eye signaling the presence of a foreign object, it can happen.
Very rarely, the pink eye may be a symptom of a deeper problem like glaucoma, diabetes or even an immune related disorder. All of these things are looked for only in cases where routine measures fail to take care of the symptoms of pink eye.