Conjunctivitis or pink eye is an eye condition that is characterised by the inflammation of the conjunctiva or the inner surface of the eyelids and the outermost layer of the eye. There are many causes of conjunctivitis.
Treatments will vary depending on the type.
In some instances, it may be caused by viruses or bacteria, which make it contagious for several days or weeks. Many types of conjunctivitis though are not contagious. Allergic conjunctivitis and toxic conjunctivitis are two examples of non-contagious types.
Some Conjunctivitis Facts
Here are some important facts you need to know about the type of conjunctivitis that is contagious:
• During the incubation period or the time when you are exposed to conjunctivitis until the symptoms begin to manifest, the condition is not yet contagious.
• When you or your child suffers from pink eye, it may be best to stay at home until the condition is resolved completely. This eye condition can be highly contagious in environments like schools and day care centers where children have close contact with each other.
• Most of the time, it will be safe for your child to go back to school or for you to return to work after three to seven days, as long as the obvious symptoms of conjunctivitis are no longer present. The pink colour in the white part of the eye should be cleared up already. In the same manner, there should no longer be yellow discharge and matter on the corners of the eyes and the eyelashes.
• The length of time that your pink eye is contagious would vary depending on what actually caused the condition. If your conjunctivitis is due to the rubeola virus that also causes measles, then your condition is extremely contagious which can last for two weeks or even more.
• If the pink eye is caused by bacteria, you may apply eye drops or topical antibiotic ointments on the infected eye. These treatments would usually start working after 24 hours, after which the condition may no longer be contagious.
• If the conjunctivitis is caused by a virus, you have to allow the infection to run its course. You can supplement this by applying lubricating eye drops or by applying warm or cool compress to the outer eyelids while the eyes are closed. These remedies can relieve your symptoms. Recently some optometrists have been using Iodine and topical steroids to dramatically shorten the course of infection for viral conjunctivitis.
DO NOT use antibiotics for viral conjunctivitis. Typically they do not help and the preservatives in the drops often will cause the conjunctivitis to continue for longer. This can then lead to chronic red bloodshot eyes. It is one of the most common reasons that patients seek eye care at The Eye Practice.
• Pink eye caused by other eye allergies are not contagious. However, you should not guess the type of pink eye you or your child is experiencing. In case of doubt, you should immediately consult your therapeutic optometrist. If he or she confirms that the condition is caused by an allergy, you can apply eye drops with anti-histamines or cold compress to soothe the symptoms you are feeling.
• Avoid environments that can increase your risks of developing pink eye. For instance, avoid swimming pools and other water sources that are dirty and are not chlorinated as you can be exposed to adenoviruses found there that can cause pink eye. Contaminated counter tops and towels are also good sources of bacteria and viruses that cause pink eye. These items should be cleaned and disinfected to avoid turning them into pink eye carriers.
• If you suffered from pink eye, make sure to throw away items like mascara brushes and other eye make-ups that have been in contact with your infected eye. This is necessary even after your eyes have cleared up to prevent the condition from recurring.
• If your condition does not improve after 10 days of being treated for conjunctivitis, make sure to consult your therapeutic optometrist immediately.