The most well known of all eye infections is called pink eye, or conjunctivitis. The infection is the redness and inflammation of the membranes (conjunctiva) covering the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the lid. The membranes react to a variety of bacteria, viruses and allergy agents, irritants and toxins. Viral and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are common in childhood and are highly contagious. Pink eye is usually classified as either infectious or non-infectious. Pink eye does not cause changes in vision.

Although viral pink eye does not necessarily require antibiotics, people who are affected should still see a doctor since corneal infections enter your eye through the cornea. The cornea usually has excellent barriers, but can be prone to infection if it is torn or injured in some way. Viral pink eye is very contagious, and can last one to two weeks. Symptoms are more pronounced for the first three to five days and might include watery discharge, cold-like symptoms like runny nose or congestion and swollen eyelids. Viral infections can be very painful and if left untreated can lead to scarring or permanent vision loss. If you have a corneal infection, see your doctor right away.

Staphylococcus or streptococcus are types of bacteria that commonly cause bacterial pink eye. Symptoms of pink eye from bacteria occur rapidly and may include eye pain, swelling, itching, redness, moderate to large amounts of thick and yellow discharge and the swelling of the lymph nodes in front of the ears. Discharge usually accumulates while sleeping, which will require a warm wash cloth applied to the eyes. Treatment will also include antibiotic eye drops or ointment prescribed by your doctor.

If you think that you or your child might have bacterial pink eye, it is very important to see your doctor immediately. Since the infection is bacterial, an antibiotic will be required to fight the infection. Secondly, if you or your child are also experiencing other symptoms like a runny nose or cough then there is a good chance that the symptoms are being caused by the same bacteria and an oral antibiotic might be needed. Finally, your eye doctor will want to make sure that the infection has not spread to other areas of your body that are still undetected. Eye infections can be preventable if make sure to wash your hands often, avoid sharing towels with others, clean your contact lenses properly, take steps to avoid eye injuries and be sure to visit your eye doctor immediately if you have an infection.

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