Every year, an estimated 6 million people in the United States get conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. Many cases of conjunctivitis are triggered by allergies, which can stimulate histamine production and cause the eyes to get red, swollen, and itchy.
At Harlem VistaSite Eye Care in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Brittni Rodriguez, OD, can accurately diagnose whether your pink eye is due to allergies and help prescribe a treatment to alleviate symptoms.
Pink eye basics
Pink eye is an umbrella term for all types of conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is an irritation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the tissue that covers the white of your eye and the inside of your eyelid.
Pink eye can have many causes, and the cause determines the treatment. There are four main types of conjunctivitis, but only two are contagious.
Allergic conjunctivitis is perhaps the easiest type of conjunctivitis to treat, since it’s not caused by bacteria, a virus, or chemicals. Instead, it’s caused by a histamine reaction to substances, such as pollen, pet dander, or other allergens. Allergic conjunctivitis isn’t contagious.
The best way to deal with allergic conjunctivitis is to avoid the allergens that can trigger a reaction. If you do get allergic conjunctivitis, oral antihistamines, anti-inflammatory eyedrops, and mild steroids may help. If you have seasonal allergies, you may only need treatment part of the year. If you have chronic eye allergies, you may need ongoing treatment to keep symptoms at bay.
Chemical substances, such as acids or cleaning solutions, that get into the eye can cause chemical conjunctivitis. Treatment typically involves flushing the eye with a saline solution and using steroid drops. If the eye is severely damaged, it may need to be seen by a specialist so scarring can be prevented and sight can be retained. Chemical conjunctivitis isn’t contagious.
If bacteria gets in the eye or reaches the eye from a respiratory infection, it can cause bacterial conjunctivitis. It’s highly contagious, but it can be quickly treated with antibiotic eye drops to get rid of the infection.
Pink eye can also be caused by a contagious virus, in which case antibiotics won’t help. Isolation can stop the spread, and artificial tears, cold compresses, and steroids can reduce pain and inflammation. You’ll have to wait it out until the viral conjunctivitis infection clears, which could take up to two weeks.
If red, itchy, or irritated eyes are giving you problems, book an appointment online or over the phone with Harlem VistaSite Eye Care today.