Not only are the eyes some of the most important structures of the body, as they can help us visualize things…but they are also some of the most sensitive, says Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver.
To keep debris and other foreign objects from entering into the eyes, we have eyelashes. The eyes are similar to the whiskers of a cat in the sense that they are sensitive to touch. However, along with being sore due to foreign objects entering into the eye, there are a number of other problems that can affect the eye, including a condition known as pink eye or conjunctivitis. Pink eye occurs when the membrane that lines the eye becomes irritated and inflamed, and it is usually due to bacteria, allergies, blocked tear ducts, or viruses. In fact, the same virus that causes the common cold is also to blame for causing pink eye.
Now, you might be wondering how you get pink eye and whether or not you can catch it from someone already with pink eye – and the simple answer to that is yes. Pink eye is highly contagious and can be spread through person-to-person contact for as long as 10 to 14 days after your initial symptoms. Along with eye pain, pink eye also comes with other symptoms, including but not limited to eye redness, itchy eyes, eye discharge, and even symptoms of the common cold, like a cough, an earache, or a runny nose.
To reduce the risk of developing pink eye and to prevent in from spreading if you do have pink eye, there are many precautions that Dr. Ali Ghahary says patients can take. First and foremost – and it should go without saying – avoid itching or rubbing your eyes, as this can actually spread the infection from one eye to the other. Dr. Ali Ghahary also urges patients to take good care of their hygiene – this means washing your hands regularly with soap and water. You should also make sure you wash your hands before applying any drops to your eyes, too. If you are not near a sink, you can carry around pocket-sized hand sanitizer to use throughout the day, but it should contain at least 60% alcohol. If you happen to wear contact lenses, switch to glasses for the time being, but also make sure you keep your glasses cleaned regularly and do not wipe them with anything (towels, for example) that might be contaminated. You should also wash pillows, sheets, and not share any personal items like makeup brushes.
In most cases, pink eye will generally clear up on its own in 1 to 2 weeks and you may not even require treatment. However, it is not uncommon for doctors to prescribe patients with antibiotic eye drops or ointments if their pink eye is the result of a bacterial infection. Treatment all depends on the severity of the pink eye, how long you have had it, and what type of infection it is (viral or bacterial.)