Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, comes in many forms. But this past week, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of viral cases coming into our office. Yesterday alone I saw four cases of this very annoying and very contagious condition.
Conjunctivitis, by definition, is an inflammation of the outermost layer of the eye and the layer that lines the inside of the eye lids. I know, it’s not pretty to think about. But this area on our body is made to keep out viruses, bacteria and anything else that shouldn’t get in, so when a virus does get in the body reacts in certain ways.
Viral conjunctivitis usually presents as a red, watery eye with a feeling like something is stuck inside your eye. Often there is itching as well. Most patients seem to wait a full day before coming in hoping that whatever is happening to their eye will just go away. Many times this starts in one eye and then jumps to the other a few days later.
Unfortunately there is no quick fix for viral conjunctivitis. A virus has to run its course, which usually takes about one week. Some supportive therapies such as cool compresses and artificial tears can give you minor relief. But if the symptoms are bad enough, I might prescribe an anti-inflammatory eye drop.
This drop always comes with a warning that although your eye may begin to feel better in just one day, the virus is still present and you are still contagious.
Obviously hand-washing is very important in limiting the spread of pink eye. Try not to touch your eye, but if you do, make sure your thoroughly wash your hands after. Also don’t share towels and wash your bedsheets.
Ultimately viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and will spread from time to time, and there is only so much we can do. Just remember to call your eye doctor whenever something in your eye feels different. Early diagnosis, education and management are paramount in containing the spread of this communicable condition.