All of us have suffered through the dreaded pink eye at some point or the other. In fact, pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is a very common eye condition, with an estimated 3 million cases occurring in the United States each year.1 Conjunctivitis can give you reddish eyes and produce a sticky discharge. It may also cause pain and a gritty or itchy feeling in the eyes.
This condition is caused by the inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin membrane that covers the white of your eyes. Factors like viral and bacterial infections or irritation due to the presence of allergens ( pollen, dander etc.) or irritants (chemicals, dust, contact lens etc.) can cause the conjunctiva to become inflamed. While conjunctivitis caused by virus and bacteria is infectious, that triggered by allergens or irritants is non-infectious.2 3
So, are there ways to avoid pink eye? We may have some answers for you!
Taking certain precautions can stop you from catching viral and bacterial conjunctivitis which are extremely contagious. On the other hand, avoiding irritants and allergens will prevent conjunctivitis that develops due to exposure to these. Let’s take a look at some specific measures that can be helpful.
1. Wash Your Hands
Infectious conjunctivitis spreads easily through contaminated hands. So washing your hands frequently is important to stop the condition from spreading. This especially applies after interacting with someone who has conjunctivitis. In fact, it’s generally a good idea not to touch your eyes if your hands haven’t been washed.
2. Don’t Share
Don’t share stuff that can spread infection to your eyes. This includes things like cosmetics, especially eye makeup, towels, washcloths, and eye drops. If someone in your family has conjunctivitis, make sure you launder washcloths, towels, or pillowcases that might have become contaminated separately. Also, if you get conjunctivitis, take care not to use the same eye drop bottle for your infected eye and healthy eye as this can spread the condition to your healthy eye too.
3. Don’t Reuse
You can prevent the infection from recurring by not reusing things that might have become infected during your bout of conjunctivitis. Chuck all your old eye makeup after an episode. Also, use a new pair of contact lens if you use the disposable kind. If you don’t use diposable lens, make sure you disinfect the case and your lens at least twice before using them again. If you do reuse some things like pillow cases, for instance, make sure you disinfect them properly.
4. Avoid Irritants And Allergens
If you are prone to allergic conjunctivitis, taking measures to avoid your triggers can help prevent the condition. For instance, you may want to keep your windows closed when there are high levels of pollen outside and avoid animals that you’re allergic to. Wear goggles while swimming if you find chlorinated water irritating. Also, vacuum more frequently if dust is a trigger.4
5. Change Your Contact Lens
The constant presence of a foreign body in your eye (like your contact lens) can cause a kind of allergic conjunctivitis known as giant papillary conjunctivitis. If you develop this kind of conjunctivitis, your doctor may recommend that you switch to a different kind of contact lens – probably a lens that’s replaced more frequently – or disinfection solution to help prevent the condition from recurring.5
In this case, however, your symptoms may develop more slowly than is generally seen in conjunctivitis; you may also develop tiny spots on your inner upper eyelids when you have this condition. Do keep in mind that this kind of conjunctivitis requires medical attention as it has a higher risk of complications. 6
6. Get Screened
If you have a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia or gonorrhea while you’re pregnant, your baby’s eyes could get infected during the process of birth. Now conjunctivitis caused by sexually transmitted infections can have serious consequences for a newborn and even lead to lasting eye damage. However, getting screened for these infections while you’re pregnant and undergoing treatment before delivery can prevent these kinds of conjunctivitis in your baby.7
7. Get Vaccinated
You can’t get vaccinated against conjunctivitis. But vaccines are available for many conditions associated with conjunctivitis. For instance, you can get vaccinated against measles. The virus that causes this disease also affects the eyes in nearly everybody who gets measles.8 Some other conditions associated with conjunctivitis that you can get vaccinated against include rubella, chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza. So getting all your shots can afford you some protection.9
How Do You Deal With Conjunctivitis?
In most cases, conjunctivitis clears up on its own without treatment in a couple of weeks. But do check in with a doctor if you experience pain or problems with your vision, or your eyes become extremely red or sensitive to light. If required, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops for a bacterial infection or antihistamines for allergic conjunctivitis.10
Some people have also found natural remedies like eyebright, chamomile, and marigold to be useful. You should consult a trained practitioner for these treatments, though.11
It’s always best to seek medical attention if a newborn baby gets conjunctivitis.
|↑1||Facts About Pink Eye. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). University of Michigan.|
|↑3||Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑4||Pinkeye. The Nemours Foundation.|
|↑5||Conjunctivitis. American Optometric Association.|
|↑6||Symptoms of conjunctivitis. National Health Service.|
|↑7||Preventing conjunctivitis (pinkeye) in your newborn. Canadian Paediatric Society.|
|↑8||Six Ways Measles Can Affect the Eyes. American Academy of Ophthalmology.|
|↑9||Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑10||Conjunctivitis. National Health Service.|
|↑11||Conjunctivitis. University of Maryland.|