Q: What is “pink eye?”
Dr. Viker: Pink eye is a term that generally refers to any irritation or infection that makes one or both eyes appear pink or red. Typically people think of pink eye as something a school-aged child gets and that is very contagious. This is a specific type of viral eye infection usually found in kids who also have a common cold or other viruses. This type of infection, much like the common cold, cannot be treated with drops or medications, it must simply run its course.
Q: How is an eye infection different from pink eye?
Dr. Viker: While pink eye is a type of viral eye infection, more commonly patients experience a bacterial eye infection. When a foreign bacteria or too much bacteria are introduced to the surface of the eye and/or the eyelids, an eye infection can result. This means that bacteria are living on the surface of the eye in greater quantities than is healthy.
Q: What causes eye infections?
Dr. Viker: Eye infections have many causes. Simply touching a surface and then touching ones eye can introduce bacteria that may cause an infection. Eye infections can be caused by improper care of contact lenses as well. Additionally, sharing eye care products or cosmetics with someone else can increase one’s risk for an eye infection.
Q: How can I avoid eye infections?
Dr. Viker: Many easy things can help lower the risk of an eye infection. The American Optometric Association recommends the following:
-Avoid touching your eyes
– If you need to touch your eyes, wash your hands first
– Use a clean towel and washcloth each day
– Avoid sharing cosmetics products with other people
– Discard your mascara every 3 months
– Follow your optometrist’s instructions on proper contact lens use – this means disposing of your contact lenses at the prescribed interval, i.e. if you have a monthly lens throw it away every month. Avoid swimming and hot tubs in your contact lenses and dispose of your contact lens case every 2 months. Additionally, use the lens care system prescribed by your optometrist, use fresh solution daily, and wash your hands prior to handling your contact lenses.
Q: What are the symptoms of an eye infection?
Dr. Viker: Symptoms include redness of the eyes, mucous discharge from one or both eyes, watery eyes, and a burning or gritty sensation.
Q: What if I wear contact lenses and think I have an eye infection?
Dr. Viker: Patients that wear contact lenses are at risk for more serious types of infections, particularly patients who sleep in contact lenses or do not care for their lenses properly. If you wear contact lenses and suspect an eye infection you should remove and discard your contact lenses and see an eye doctor right away.
Q: What should I do if I think I have an eye infection?
Dr. Viker: The best thing you can do is see an eye doctor right away for evaluation and treatment of the infection. Eye doctors can look directly at your eye to determine the appropriate course of treatment. Typically, the eye doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops for 7-10 days. Some infections require longer treatment regimens and may require close monitoring with your eye doctor.
Q: How are eye infections treated?
Dr. Viker: Eye infections are usually treated with prescription antibiotic eye drops. Your eye doctor will determine what type of infection you have and prescribe the drop that will best treat your infection. Some infections of the eye and/or eyelid require antibiotic tablets be taken as well.