The Three Faces Of Pink Eye

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By Alicia Bell

eyeConjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” is an inflammation of the thin white covering of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. If you’ve ever had this infection before, you know it’s annoying. If you haven’t, it might sound a little scary. It’s actually quite common and preventable. Usually, small children, college students, teachers, and daycare workers represent the highest risk for infection, but this is largely because their job or who they are puts them in contact with a lot of other people. Although conjunctivitis can have many causes, there are primarily three ways to get the infection:

Viral Infection

This form of the infection is caused by a virus similar to the common cold. It’s extremely contagious, but it will usually clear up in a few days or a week if left untreated. You’ll know if you have it because you’ll get itchy, watery, eyes and you’ll be sensitive to light. You can become infected in one or both eyes. If you’ve got it in only one eye, avoid rubbing your eyes since you might spread the infection to the other eye.

Unfortunately, with a viral infection, there’s not much that can be done. A cold washcloth can alleviate the symptoms. Just make sure you’re the only one using it.

Bacterial Infection

A bacterial infection should be treated as soon as possible. It could lead to serious damage to the eye if left untreated. Bacterial pink eye usually presents with a sticky, yellowish or greenish discharge in the corner of the eye.

In some cases, it gets so bad that your eyes are stuck together when you wake up in the morning. Obviously, this is unpleasant. Most people don’t wait too long to see a doctor, and neither should you. Like viral infections, one or both eyes may be infected. Don’t rub your eyes as the infection can spread to an unaffected eye. Treatment is via antibiotic eye drops or ointments.

When taking antibiotics, remember to take the entire course of treatment. Even if your symptoms improve, it’s crucial that you finish the entire prescription.

When taking antibiotics, remember to take the entire course of treatment. Even if your symptoms improve, it’s crucial that you finish the entire prescription. It’s entirely likely that you’ll have no outward symptoms by the time you’ve finished with the antibiotics. That’s fine. Finishing the prescription ensures that you kill everything and do not create an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria that can come back to haunt you (or someone else).


When you have an allergy-caused pink eye condition, you’ll get watery, burning eyes. Sometimes, they’ll also be itchy. It’s often accompanied by other cold or flu-like symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose. You may have some light sensitivity. Usually, both eyes are affected. Thankfully, it’s not contagious.

Because the pink eye is caused by an allergy, in this case, your best bet is allergy medication. It can help prevent or shorten the reaction. Your doctor can prescribe the meds. You can also try boosting your immune system through diet and intelligent vitamin and mineral supplementation.

In most cases, the best source for vitamins and minerals is food: green vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and lean as well as fatty cuts of meat (to help with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins). Supplements that you might find especially helpful include vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc. Rest will also help your body recover faster.

– Alicia Bell is a health blogger and busy mom who suffered from pink eye. Her posts appear mainly on health, medical and family websites.