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What Is Pink Eye and How Is It Treated?

Mark J. Pyle, DO is a pediatrician at Banner Health Center in Verrado. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call Dr. Pyle's office at 623-463-5000.

Question: What is pinkeye and how is it treated?

Answer: Pinkeye, or conjunctivitis, occurs when the thin, clear layer that sits over the white part of the eye, called the conjunctiva, becomes irritated. When the conjunctiva is inflamed, either from bacteria, virus, allergies or another irritant, the white of the eye turns reddish, and the eye can be itchy, watery and have a sticky, yellow discharge that turns crusty and dry. Pinkeye caused by bacteria or a virus is very contagious and spreads easily from person to person. This is particularly problematic for children because they often rub their eyes and then touch other people or surfaces, which quickly passes the infection to others.

The type of pinkeye that a child or adult may get can be diagnosed by a physician performing an eye exam. Bacterial pinkeye is generally treated with antibiotics in the form of eye drops or ointment. Because both viral and bacterial pinkeye are highly contagious, washing hands and avoiding hand-to-eye contact are important until symptoms improve. Allergy-related pinkeye usually resolves after removing the allergen that caused the eye to become inflamed and treating the allergy with proper medication. Pinkeye resulting from an irritant can be resolved by flushing the eye with water. However, if the irritant is a chemical such as bleach, contact a medical professional immediately.

If you notice your child or a family member has developed symptoms of pinkeye, please call your pediatrician or family practitioner for advice. While pinkeye is generally not serious, it is important that it be treated promptly with the appropriate remedy.

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