Hey Doc, I think I have got Pink Eye
“Tell me I have an infection, an abrasion, put a patch on me, anything. I can handle it… as long as it’s not pink eye. If I’ve got pink eye I can’t go to work, school, out in public without being socially shunned. It’s like wearing the Scarlet letter. Ya know, Doc?”
“Well, I’ve got good news for you then. You do not have pink eye. In fact, I’m not sure what pink eye is. Pink eye is not a diagnosis, I know that much.”
Pink Eye, the dreaded eye problem that floats around schools and supposedly spreads like wildfire. If I only had a nickel for the number of times I’ve heard the words and inwardly cringed at the widely accepted term. I’m expressing my distaste for the term, not because I’m smug and want to put you in your place. Not because it even really bothers me launching in to the explanation time after time. Maybe I just want to share some knowledge, start a movement.. or something. Kind of like the “Hotlanta” term. All of us native Atlantans are just a little tired of that, right?? Well, if you care to listen, I’ll let you in on the quintessentials of what can create a “pink eye.”
Anything that causes your eye to turn pinkish or red can technically be termed “pink eye.” The blood vessels in the conjunctiva, the whitish outer membrane that surrounds the eye, can become engorged or dilated in response to several insults or stimuli. Here are a few of the most common reasons one’s eye may turn pink.
1. If a foreign object scratches the anterior ocular surface or becomes embedded in the tissue of the eye, a significant engorging of the blood vessels will result but often in a localized area on the conjunctiva. The eye has an amazing ability to heal itself pretty quickly, so most of the time the milder abrasions resolve within a few days.
2. Viral Conjunctivitis is the most common ocular infection and can be easily spread from contact. It often presents with a diffusely red and swollen appearance. Thick tears and swollen lids frequently accompany the virus. As with the common cold, this infection must run its course before it gets better. An antibiotic drop will not alleviate a virus. An anti-inflammatory drop may be prescribed to help alleviate some of the redness, inflammation, and swelling associated with the infection, however. While adenoviral is the most common type of strain, there are several and they can vary in severity. Although this infection is generally self-limited, it is always important to get your eye’s checked if a problem arises to rule out any wicked-nasty strains or other more virulent infections.
3. Bacterial conjunctivitis is another transmittable infection that can present with a diffuse “pink eye.” Because the appearance and symptoms are often similar to that of a viral conjunctivitis, it is difficult to distinguish between a viral and bacterial infection without clinical observation. Often, lids may become more matted and a thick greenish-yellow discharge will accompany a bacterial infection. A wide spectrum antibiotic drop is often prescribed to help treat these cases.
4. Allergic Conjunctivitis is a very common cause of pink, itchy, irritated eyeballs. Seasonal allergies or an allergic reaction to several product ingredients can lead to red, watery, swollen eyes. Local and oral antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, and anti-inflammatory drops can alleviate allergy symptoms.
In summary, pink eye is not a condition. Anything that causes ocular redness could essentially be termed “pink eye”. The important thing is getting to the bottom of what may be hindering the eye. And I can assure you that using Visine is not the answer. So the next time your eye is looking pink, feeling goopy, and a little strange, get in to your optometrist and have them take a look.