How is Pink Eye Treated?

There’s a protective membrane (conjunctiva) on your eyeballs that protects them from external irritants and keeps your eyes moist. If that membrane gets infected and inflamed, it’s called conjunctivitis, but you may know it as pink eye.

Although pink eye isn’t a medical emergency, it can be very uncomfortable, and some types are highly contagious. If you suspect conjunctivitis, see us here at WiseCare Urgent Care in Severna Park or Pasadena, Maryland. Led by Dr. Perry Weisma, our team of medical professionals can see you seven days a week, whether you make an appointment or walk in. 

So if your eye is red, painful, and draining, don’t hesitate to come in for an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding pink eye

Conjunctivitis inflames the protective membrane that lines the underside of your eyelids and covers the whites of your eyes. It also affects the tiny blood vessels within the conjunctiva, which gives you the signature pink or red tinge. Pink eye stems from various sources and treating it depends on identifying the cause. Here are the three main types of pink eye and how we treat them.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

If you have pink eye from a bacterial infection, you can confidently blame one of the following:

Bacterial conjunctivitis can occur in one or both eyes. In addition to redness, you may experience itchiness, swollen eyelids, burning sensation, grittiness, thick discharge, and even mild pain.

If you’re generally healthy and get bacterial conjunctivitis, it will likely run its course in about two weeks without treatment. Make sure to wash your affected eye daily with water and a sterile cloth, and use artificial tears (eye drops) to relieve symptoms.

If it becomes excruciating, you can’t open your eye, or you have blurry vision, it’s time to seek medical attention. Anyone with a weakened immune system should also seek care. 

We treat bacterial conjunctivitis with antibacterial eye drops or ointment to support your body’s ability to fight the infection.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious — avoid touching your eyes if possible, and wash your hands often. Also, make sure to launder anything that touches your eye, like your washcloth and pillowcase.

Viral conjunctivitis

The same virus that gives you the common cold is the most common culprit in viral conjunctivitis. It typically happens when you sneeze or cough and the respiratory droplets land in your eyes. Touching your eyes after covering a cough or sneeze with your hands can also do it. 

Along with your red eyes, you can expect to see some clear, watery discharge, in contrast to the sticky, thick discharge common with bacterial conjunctivitis. 

There is no treatment for viral pink eye, and antibacterial drops are ineffective against the virus. The best way to ease your symptoms is to use a warm, wet compress to soothe the discomfort. Again, this type of conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, so follow the same rules about hand washing and cleaning anything that comes into contact with your affected eye or eyes. 

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergens can also cause pink eye, which is aptly named allergic conjunctivitis. Common triggers include:

Like its bacterial and viral cousins, allergic conjunctivitis makes your eyes pink or red, but they are also extremely itchy with this type. Puffy eyes are a telltale sign. Allergic conjunctivitis can be either seasonal or chronic, and we treat it the same way we treat your other allergic reactions to the same triggers, with an antihistamine.

Antihistamines are useful because they block your body from releasing histamines. These chemicals normally help rid your body of allergens but have mistaken harmless allergens for dangerous ones. They go into overdrive and cause excessive sneezing and eye-watering. 

You can buy over-the-counter antihistamines or see us for prescription-strength allergy eye drops. Meanwhile, do your best to eliminate the thing that triggers your allergies: use an air purifier, close your windows when the pollen count is high, dust your house often, avoid chemicals that prompt your allergic response.

When in doubt, see us

If you’re not sure if your red eyes have conjunctivitis, or aren’t sure what type you have, we’re here to help. In severe, untreated cases, conjunctivitis can lead to corneal ulcers, ear infections, and even vision loss, so be safe and come into WiseCare Urgent Care for an evaluation and treatment. Contact us by phone, use our online tool to save a place in line, or just walk in.

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