Pink Eyes - Allergies, Bacteria & Viruses - What's Causing it?

Jul 25, 2021

Hockey fans likely remember Jeff Petry's red eyes after returning the next game during the Habs and Golden Knights series. They were not just red, they made him look like a zombie. It did not look like pink eye or allergies to me, but maybe? Twitter was blaming it on everything from opioid narcotics to an actual eye injury. It turns out the red eyes were from broken blood vessels. Petry actually dislocated his pinky finger and the procedure to re-set the finger caused his eyes to go evil red.

The eyes are a complex organ and one of our most cherished. It is important to keep them looking good, no pun intended. As we still have to mask up, it is important because it is all you can see, again no pun intended. Aside from having a body joint put back into place in the dressing room, there are two main causes for red eyes, allergies and infection. The infection can either come from bacteria or viruses. While we usually refer to pink eye as infected eyes, allergies have to be considered as well.

Red, itchy eyes are common a tell-tale symptom of pink eye. The cause is what is important to determine because that dictates the course of treatment. Depending on the ailment you may be headed to the pharmacy or the walk-in so once again it is important to try and determine the difference. Pink eye is the common term for inflammation in the eye or conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva lines the white part of the eyelid to help keep it moist. When irritated by allergens, viruses or bacteria pink eye can occur. Reddening in the white of the eye, itching, burning and increased tear production are the hallmark symptoms.

The most common type of pink eye is viral conjunctivitis, which is accompanied by a watery discharge and burning sensation in the eye. A respiratory infection or cold or flu virus is typically the culprit behind this kind of pink eye. Inflammation usually begins in one eye and potentially spreads to both eyes within days, especially if you use the same hand to rub both your infected eye and uninfected one. It is important to note viruses cause 60 to 80 percent of eye infections, because this means antibiotics will not make a difference the majority of the time. A discharge will usually start in one eye and spreads to two eyes. An infected eye feels more like irritation versus and itchy eye for allergies. A pus like discharge that makes the eye stick together is usually a clear sign of a bacterial infection.

Allergic conjunctivitis or hay fever is not contagious, it is the body's response to allergens which can include things like pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens like those that hide under the snow and show up in the spring. Histamine is released and causes itching, tearing and swelling in both eyes. If you have seasonal allergies one year, you are likely to have them repeat around the same time the next. Itching is the most dominant symptom when diagnosing seasonal allergic conjunctivitis along with burning a redness. Both eyes are usually affected at the same type with similar symptoms in both eyes.

Pink eye will usually clear up on its own without treatment. Viral infections may take up to two weeks to clear up. For bacterial infections, an over-the-counter medication can help the healing process. Prescription medication is also available when needed. Usually, time is the best treatment for an eye infection as they will clear up on their own. It is important to not share towels or linens with someone else who has an infection. Hand washing is also especially important.

Diagnosing the different types of conjunctivitis can sometimes be difficult even for medical professionals. Remember to consult your optometrist for any lingering symptoms where treatments do not seem to be effective. You should also consider seeing your doctor if you experience pain or intense redness in the eyes, light sensitivity, blurred vision or your symptoms worsen with time.

Stay tuned next week as we go over treatment options for pink eye. As always talk to your clinic pharmacist for health advice.


Read more Health Articles

Unite Interactive