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How to know if you have pink eye
We often call this condition red eye, but more often than not it is known as pink eye. The Clinica London ophthalmic consultants will look after you if you are suffering from this condition.
People often call conjunctivitis pink eye pink eye because the white of the eye and lining of the eyelids take on a pink or red colour.  The causes and symptoms can vary, but typically include redness and swelling of the white of the eye. There can also be:

  • watering eyes
  • itchy, scratchy eyes
  • watery or sticky discharge
  • crusting of the eyelids or eyelashes

Pink eye is extremely common and is a primary cause of children not being able to go to school or adults not being able to work. It is often highly contagious. In this blog, I am going to talk about the four causes of pink eye and thus help you to know whether you are suffering from the condition and, if so, what you can do about it.

Causes of pink eye

Pink eye can be caused by:

  • viruses and bacteria (very contagious)
  • allergens such as pollen (not contagious)
  • irritants such as chlorine in the swimming pool, smoke pollution or dust (not contagious)

Symptoms of pink eye

The symptoms usually include:

  • redness and swelling
  • watering
  • grittiness
  • itching
  • irritation
  • burning discharge
  • crusting

Depending on the cause, a number of each of these symptoms will be present.  Pink eye can occur in one or both eyes, and will often start in one eye and spread to the other.  Allergens usually cause bilateral pink eye, whereas an irritant could occur only in one eye, for instance, if you have touched a chilli or chilli powder while cooking and then touched one eye, that eye will be affected, but not the other.
Viral and bacterial causes of pink eye are more often bilateral but can be more prominent in one eye and be found to be present, but clinically less significant, in the other eye when the ophthalmologist examines the patient.

See a doctor if you have pink eye

You should see an urgent eye care ophthalmologist if your pink eye is accompanied by:

  • pain
  • sensitivity to light
  • blurred vision
  • intense eye redness

You should also see an ophthalmologist if it is getting worse or if it is not improving with regular over-the-counter eyedrops and home care.  You should also see your urgent care ophthalmologist if you have pink eye and you have a weakened immune system. For instance, if you have had an organ transplant and you are on immunosuppressive therapy, or if you are undergoing cancer treatment, or you have HIV, pink eye may be more severe.
If you have a pre-existing eye condition and you get pink eye, you should see your urgent eye care ophthalmologist because it may be infective conjunctivitis or there may be another cause, such as a corneal ulcer, a corneal foreign body, uveitis, acute glaucoma, or many other causes. The urgent eye care doctor will diagnose the cause of your pink eye based on your symptoms and history and by carrying out an examination. Parents should take their newborns to see a paediatrician or a paediatric ophthalmologist urgently if their baby has a pink eye, as there are severe infective causes of the condition in infants that can lead to blindness if not detected and treated very quickly.

What to do if you have pink eye

If you think that you have pink eye, you must protect yourself and others by washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water, or by using a sanitiser gel containing at least 60% alcohol. In particular, you must wash your hands if you have touched your eye and put in eyedrops, or if you are touching someone else with pink eye or any of their personal items, including bedding, flannels, towels and clothing.  If you know that you have pink eye, you should avoid touching or rubbing your eyes as this can worsen the condition and spread it to your other eye. You should avoid sharing personal items such as make-up, eyedrops, towels, bedding, contact lenses, contact lens containers and eyewear. You should not apply make-up if you have pink eye and you should not wear false eyelashes or eyelash extensions as this can worsen the condition or help it to spread to other people. You should stop wearing your contact lenses until your eye is better as this can contaminate the contact lenses and spread the condition to your other eye. If you wear contact lenses and you have pink eye you should probably have these replaced after being advised by your ophthalmologist eye doctor.

So how do you know if you have pink eye?

If you have redness of the white of the eye and lining of the eyelids with swelling, irritation, watering or discharge and if you have pain, blurred vision and if your symptoms do not improve quickly, you should see an urgent eye care doctor such as one of the ophthalmologists here at Clinica LondonWe are available every day to see you if you are suffering from pink eye.


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