Pink Eye, Sore Eyes, or Conjunctivitis: Causes and Home Remedies
Most people have had pink eye or as we commonly call it in the Philippines, sore eyes. I remember the last time I had it was when I was still in college when I was working on my final term paper in English communication. It was a very untimely, irritable eye condition. Good thing I was still able to pass my paper on time.
What is Pink Eye?
Pink eye is also known as conjunctivitis and madras eye. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the thin membrane that covers the inner lining of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. The symptoms of pink eye include a burning sensation, itchiness, wateriness, and red eye. One may have the feeling that an object is stuck under the eyelid causing pain, blurry vision, or light sensitivity. Pus may also be discharged from the eye and the eyelids may be glued together especially after a long sleep. It usually begins in one eye and then spreads to the other eye.
What Are the Causes of Pink Eye?
Pink eye may be infectious because of bacterial or viral causes. It is very common in children and is highly contagious. It can also be non-infectious when caused by allergic reactions, chemical irritants, chronic medical conditions, or trauma. How do you differentiate one from another?
Bacterial Pink Eye
One way to tell if the pink eye is bacterial in origin is to see if the discharge is yellow or greenish in color. To remove the discharge from the eyes which makes the eyelids stick together, use a warm washcloth or cotton balls. To treat the pink eye, usually antibiotic eyedrops or ointment is prescribed by the doctor. Sometimes an oral antibiotic may be necessary if the person is also experiencing a runny nose, cough, earache, etc., which may probably be due to the same bacterial infection.
Viral Pink Eye
This type of pink eye produces clear and watery discharge and not green or yellow. It is often accompanied by "cold-like" symptoms and lasts about 7-10 days. There is no specific treatment for this type of conjunctivitis. Since it is viral in origin, it will not respond to antibiotic treatment. Sometimes, a doctor may still need to check a person with this type of pink eye to make sure that it is not an infection of the cornea (the clear portion of the front of the eyeball) which must be correctly detected and treated.
Allergic Pink Eye
This non-infectious type of pink eye is due to a reaction to seasonal pollens, animal dander, and dust. Symptoms are similar to typical allergy symptoms which include intense itching, tearing, sneezing, and a scratchy throat. Home remedies include washing the eyes with cold water and taking antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medications and using topical eyedrops.
Chemical pink eye
When any irritating substance like smoke, foreign objects, or sprays of any kind enters the eye, it is important that prompt, thorough washing of the eyes is done with saline solution. A doctor should also be contacted at once especially with alkali burns as it can lead to severe scarring and intraocular damage.
Persistent Pink Eye
Chronic medical conditions may be the cause of persistent conjunctivitis though this rarely occurs. Underlying diseases that may be associated with pink eye are rheumatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Kawasaki's disease (a condition associated with fever in infants and young children), and some inflammatory bowel diseases.
Pink Eye from Trauma
Sometimes, bright redness of the whites of the eyes occurs after a trauma or changes in pressure within the head like when diving underwater, or after forceful laughing, or vomiting. This is called subconjunctival hemorrhage which happens when the tiny blood vessels covering the whites of the eyes rupture. There is no cause for alarm for this type of pink eye because it is generally harmless and does not affect vision.
What Are Some Home Remedies for Pink Eye?
Most pink eye cases resolve within 2-5 days without treatment. Antibiotics, eye drops, or ointment are only needed if no improvement is observed after 3 days. The following are some home remedies that might help relieve the symptoms of pink eye. Some of these I know to really work from experience.
Moist warm compresses (using a clean washcloth or sterile cotton balls dipped in warm water) applied to the eyes about 3 times per day can help relieve the symptoms. Different variations of warm compresses are made by putting an additional ingredient into the warm water such as:
- salt - it acts as an antiseptic that kills the bacteria
- honey - it is a natural antibiotic and has healing properties.
- tea bag (of black tea, chamomile or orange pekoe); in this case, some use the warm tea bags as the warm compress.
- a solution of one part baby shampoo to ten parts warm water
Natural or Over-the-Counter Eye Drops can also bring relief such as:
- breast milk - it is also a natural antibiotic and has healing properties; breast milk from another individual has the potential to spread diseases or viruses, so use knowledgeably
- aloe sap that can be taken from the inside of the leaves; you can apply it with your finger into the upper and lower lids of the eye
- soft contact saline solution
- boric acid solution eyewash (ophthalmic only)
Close your eyes for two minutes after application. This prevents the eye from blinking which washes away the eye drops.
Take Note: If there are no improvements in the pink eye after 2-3 days of self-care, then one needs to visit an eye specialist.
Pink Eye Care Tips
Other important things to remember and follow when caring for a pink eye include
- Do not wear contact lenses until the pink eye has healed. Wearing contacts can get serious infections on the cornea which can lead to blindness.
- Don't cover your eye. Covering the eye with a patch will create a warm environment that encourages the growth of the microorganisms. It also interferes with the removal of the waste products through the flushing of tears.
- Refrain from touching or scratching your eyes and wash your hands again and again. Soap helps to kill the microorganisms that cause pink eye.
- Infectious forms of pink eye are highly contagious and can be spread by direct and indirect contact with infected people. Remember to never share towels or handkerchiefs, and throw away tissues after each use.
- Disinfect common household surfaces like counter tops, sinks, and door knobs to help prevent the spread of infectious pink eye.
How to Put Eyedrops Into Your Child's Eyes
Most of the time, the idea of putting an eyedrop into a child's eye is not welcomed. A good trick to putting eyedrops into your child's eye is to just ask your child to lie down flat and tell him to "close your eyes." Then, put the prescribed eyedrops in the inner corner of the eye from the bridge of the nose. When you tell your child to open his eyes, the medicine will flow gently into the infected eye and any forceful opening of the child's eyes is avoided.