Treating Pink Eye

Written by Amy Pusey (last updated May 1, 2009)

I bet you can remember countless times during your childhood when you woke up on a school day only to find out the minute you tried to force your eyes open they just would not budge. Yelling for your mom, that is when the 'uh, oh' moment occurred as she declared, 'you are staying home from school because you have pink eye.' Oh, I remember those days. It was bad enough having to stay home with a bad head cold or even the flu, but pink eye was unpleasant dealing with the constantly tearing eyes, and not to mention the white, gooey discharge that caused my eyes to crust close overnight.

The proper medical term for pink eye is conjunctivitis, which develops when the thin membrane located inside your eyelid and over the eyeball becomes inflamed by a bacterial or viral infection. The common redness associated with pink eye is caused by the inflammation, which causes the small blood vessels in the eye to become enlarged, making the eye look really red or bloodshot. There are actually four common causes of pink eye, including: viruses and bacteria, allergies, debris or foreign object in the eye, or some type of chemical liquid entering the eye. Newborns can also develop ink eye, but it is often attributed to an underdeveloped or blocked tear duct. Symptoms you can look for that may indicate the onset of pink eye, include:

  • A mucous-type discharge in one or both eyes
  • Eyes crusted shut overnight
  • Redness in one or both eyes
  • Constant tearing of the affected eye
  • The sensation debris or other irritant is caught in the eye

As mentioned above, pink eye is highly contagious, and that is why schools and many workplaces enforce their rules that when it comes to infected individuals they are to remain home until all symptoms have cleared up. Depending on the type of conjunctivitis may be present; the recovery time may be as short as 24 hours to three days, or as lengthy as 7 to 14 days. Doctors can easily determine if pink eye is the culprit of a red, runny eye by taking a sample of the discharge and submitting it for analysis. Once the results are confirmed, then your doctor can properly provide treatment. Treatments will typically include the following:

  • Allergy-related Conjunctivitis. Usually, a type of eye drops will be prescribed. This can vary, depending on the basis of the allergy, and may be: decongestants, anti-histamines, or anti-inflammatory and steroidal drops for the more severe allergic reactions. This type should be gone in a few days time.
  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis. This is often the most commonly diagnosed form of Pink Eye. Doctors will generally prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment to apply to the affected eye. The ointment is frequently recommended for children because it is easier to apply. After application, the eye will be a bit blurry for a while, but this will clear as the medication is absorbed. Using the prescription, the condition will probably be gone within 7 days.
  • Viral Conjunctivitis. Oh, what a nuisance this type can be because like any virus, it must run its course. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops or ointment to help with inflammation or the uncomfortable symptoms, but either will do little to speed up the process. The virus has to work its way out of your system. Unfortunately, this can take as long as 2-3 weeks, so you will have to exercise patience.

In addition, if you are a contact lens wearer, you should be certain to use and cleanse your cleanse as you have been instructed by your optometrist. Contact lens wearers can become susceptible to conjunctivitis because there is always a perceived foreign object in contact with your eye.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for, as well as a resume writer for ...


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