All Red Eyes are not “Pink Eye”

Mom’s say “Don’t tell me he doesn’t have “Pink eye” just look at him!”  They bring in their babies with red eyes and want an antibiotic ointment or drops to kill this bacteria that their kid got from some despicable unsanitary person.  But a lot of time it isn’t bacterial conjunctivitis “Pink Eye” at all.  They get upset at me when I tell them antibiotics not necessary.  They feel helpless and want something done.  That’s when I explain it could also be Viral, Allergy, or Mechanical irritation conjunctivitis.

So what’s a person to do?  How can one know which one they’ve got?  So to save you a trip, an insurance co-pay, and your time, let me try to break it down for you.

Now this is Pink Eye

Bacterial ConjunctivitisTHE TRUE PINK EYE” usually produces a thick yellow-greenish discharge of pus that affects usually one eye at first but then both eyes.  The eyelids are almost always matted together with crusty dried snot looking material in the AM when they wake up.  Can last longer than a week, starts slow and gets progressively worse.  Stays locally in eyes, doesn’t affect nose or ears.  Antibiotic drops or ointments work wonders real quick.  Very contagious when in contact with discharge.  Have fun keeping their hands away from their face.  Lots and lots of hand sanitizer might help.

Viral Conjunctivitis can be part of the flu or a cold or all by itself.  It produces a whitish thin watery sticky discharge  that stretches between two separated fingers(yea like you are going to touch it to find out).  Short lived better by 3rd day and gone by fifth.  Symptoms start  wham bam all at once and get better quickly.  Antibiotics do not help …got to ride the storm out.  Very contagious to contact with discharge or any air coming out of their nose and mouth.  An unfashionable “hey look at me I’m sick” mask would help a lot.

Allergic conjunctivitis has intense itching of the eyes and copious thin clear watery tearing.  It can be associated with sneezing and clear snot or present by itself.  Can last months depending on what allergic to.  Starts quickly and does not abate as long as allergen in air.   Allergy eye drops or allergy pill medications help.  Not contagious to anyone else.  Check out this website to see what allergen in air in your area.

Mechanical Irritation Conjunctivitis comes from contact lenses in wrong, to chemical splashes, to smoke in eyes.  Immediate painful eyes making you want to keep them shut.  Tearing like allergies.  With flushing or moving to filtered air usually clears up within a day.  Other than flushing, cool cloths, and murine not much to be done.  Not contagious to anyone else.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

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  2. Reva Hergenreter
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 23:55:30

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  3. Trackback: Know Your Pink Eye FactsSan Antonio's Eye & Vision Care Blog
  4. Katran Miller
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 22:07:03

    I had an eye doctor who kept treating me for pink eye, and it just wasn’t helping.

    Four months later, I finally got to an opthamologist who took one look and diagnosed the worst case of herpes simplex keratitis he’d ever seen. I’d had sinus infections on and on for a year, plus arthritis, and my immune system was worn down enough the good ol’ cold sores had gotten onto my cornea. Dendrites galore. I kept saying it felt like scabs growing on my cornea, and my first eye doctor kept patting me on the head and telling me not to worry!

    The opthamologist managed to save my cornea — it looked for a while like I’d need a transplant — but anyway, while HSK is VERY rare indeed, it is something that needs to be checked if a one-sided red eye irritation fails to respond to pink eye treatments.


  5. Trackback: Know Your Pink Eye Facts | Keene's Eye & Vision Care Blog

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