Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eye Infections & Conjunctivitis

We all have heard the term "pink eye" or "red eyes" being used to describe a condition in which the eye or eyes turn a more pinkish or reddish color in response to irritation or infection. This color change is due to dilation of the blood vessels in the conjunctiva, and can also be described as conjunctivitis. The dilation of the blood vessels is the eye's way of bringing more oxygen to the area that is affected. The cause of "pink eye" can be varied. It can be due to any type of condition that can irritate the eyes. In other words, it can be due to an infection of either bacterial or viral origin. It can also be due to allergies or exposure to something in the environment that irritates the eyes, such as smoke or smog. Too much sun can cause the eyes to turn pink or red. The treatment of "pink eye" is based upon the cause of the problem. If the eyes are making lots of mucous the cause is usually bacterial. The treatment here is an antibiotic. If the discharge from the eyes is more of a watery consistency than a mucous consistency the cause can be viral or allergic in nature. If the cause is allergic in nature there are many excellent treatments available. The treatment can range from an antihistamine eye drop to a steroid. With eye allergies there is typically a certain amount of itching associated with the condition. If the cause is viral the treatments are limited. Like a cold, there is no recognized treatment for a viral infection although there are some that are being investigated. Eye infections usually start in one eye and then progress to the other eye. It is important to realize that the bacterial and viral causes of "pink eye" are contageous. It is very easy to spread these conditions to family, friends and associates. Seek the advice of an eye care professional as soon as possible and wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer regularly. Keep your fingers and hands out of your eyes and away from your face. Use a separate towel or washcloth and be careful with the use of anything that could come into contact with your eyes. Makeup products that has come into contact with the eyes should be discarded. (This always makes me very popular with my female patients when I recommend this!)

The good news is that these conditions respond well to therapy in most cases with the exception of viral conjunctivitis. In the case of viral conjunctivitis the patient must wait out the condition and treat the symptoms....much in the way we treat a "cold". Eventually, our immune system learns how to fight the virus and we get over the condition.

The best advice I can give is to seek the care of your eye doctor ASAP when you have any condition affecting the eyes that causes them to become redder or pinker than normal. Your eye doctor will determine the appropriate treatment and you will be well on your way to recovery.

No comments:

Post a Comment