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What to do about pink eye

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It helps to take good care of your eyes. Photo/FOTOSEARCH

It helps to take good care of your eyes. Photo/FOTOSEARCH 

By DR MUKUHI NG’ANG’A

Posted  Thursday, November 22  2012 at  17:30

In Summary

  • This is the inflammation of the transparent layer overlying the white part of eye and the inner part of the eyelids.
  • This inflammation leads to redness of the eye.
  • Good hygiene can help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis.
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Pink eye is the common non-medical term used for an eye condition known as ‘conjunctivitis’. This is the inflammation of the transparent layer overlying the white part of eye and the inner part of the eyelids. This inflammation leads to redness of the eye.

Causes:

  • Infection: Most common are viruses, bacteria, fungus and rarely, parasites
  • Allergies: Most common is pollen, dust, mould and smoke
  • Chemical: Including swimming pool chlorine, eye make-up, sprays, household cleaners, industrial chemicals and tear gas
  • Sign of another disease such as lupus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel (intestine) diseases.
  • Dry eyes due to reduced tear production.

Symptoms:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Redness of the eye
  • Gritty feeling in the eye
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Increased tearing
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sticky discharge from the eye (especially after sleeping) in cases of infection
  • Blurred vision (this is a danger sign which warrants immediate medical attention)
  • Eye pain (also needs immediate medical attention)

How can you tell them apart?

Infectious conjunctivitis: Usually associated with discharge. Viral pink eye has a watery discharge while bacterial pink eye has a thick creamish discharge which causes the eyelids to stick to each other.

Viral pink eye may occur in the same setting as a common cold. You could also have swollen nodes in front of the ears. Infections of the eye are highly contagious.

Allergic conjunctivitis: Usually associated with itchy sensation in the throat, runny nose and very itchy eyes. Some people even develop dark circles round their eyes.

Chemical conjunctivitis: Usually occurs on exposure to chemicals listed above and cause immediate irritation.

Treatment

Infectious conjunctivitis: Since most infections are caused by viruses, they run a natural course of about 7-10 days without treatment and often do not leave any complications. Bacteria usually need antibiotic drops to clear them.

Allergic conjunctivitis: Needs anti-histamines and sometimes even steroid eye drops used only when necessary

Chemical conjunctivitis: Immediately wash out offending chemical with clean water

Dry eyes: Use artificial tear drops to moisten the eye.

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