Understanding pink eye treatment

How are pink eyes diagnosed?

To diagnose pink eye (conjunctivitis), your doctor will ask you about the usual symptoms, such as burning, itchy eyes that release thick, sticky mucus and watery eyes. The doctor will also observe that your eye is inflamed or red. Often times, the cause can be determined just from your symptoms, medical history, and eye exam results. Most of the time, treatment is started right away. If there are additional lab results, the treatment may be changed based on the lab test results.

What Are the Treatments for Pink Eyes?

Home remedies may be enough to relieve conjunctivitis symptoms associated with colds, minor infections, or allergies. The treatment mainly consists of cleaning the eyes with artificial tears. Cold compresses can also be soothing.

To help relieve the discomfort of conjunctivitis, apply a cool compress for 5 to 10 minutes, three to four times a day. Artificial tears without preservative can be applied several times a day. Never use steroid eye drops or a friend’s medication without a doctor’s prescription. And be extremely careful not to share towels or washcloths with others so that you don’t spread an extremely contagious viral or bacterial pink eye to others. You should also be careful not to use the same rags or drops between your two eyes so as not to transfer the infection to your other eye. Throw away cosmetic eye products that may have been contaminated. Do not wear contact lenses.

A pink eye that includes itching and affects both eyes would suggest an allergy. Place a cool compress over your closed eye and use over-the-counter antihistamine or anti-allergic eye drops to relieve itching and burning. If the condition worsens or does not improve within a few days, see your doctor. Marked discomfort, loss of vision, and involvement in one eye only suggest a more serious problem that should be medically evaluated by your health care provider or ophthalmologist.

Pink eye caused by a virus usually goes away in one to three weeks. Because it is not caused by bacteria, viral conjunctivitis does not respond to antibiotics. It can also be very contagious. If you suspect a viral pink eye, your hands are “weapons” that will spread the infection. Do not share towels or washcloths. Artificial tears can help relieve the symptoms of viral conjunctivitis.

Pink eye caused by the herpes virus can be very serious and can be treated with prescription antiviral eye drops, ointment, or pills.

For pink eyes caused by bacteria, treatment will usually be antibiotic eye drops or ointment. This usually clears up the symptoms within a few days. Make sure you finish the full course of antibiotics. For more stubborn infections, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed. Oral antibiotics are prescribed for very unusual cases of conjunctivitis caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia. Sexual partners should also be treated. Also, if the pink eye doesn’t go away after a month, you may be tested for chlamydia.

Allergic pink eye should respond to topical vasoconstrictors (drugs that narrow blood vessels), antihistamines, or steroid eye drops. Again, never apply steroid drops for eye symptoms without a doctor’s prescription.


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