Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Pink Eye

Pink Eye is a common ailment that many families have to deal with at some point. Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us to explain this contagious disease.

Meghan Kulig: What is the medical reason behind the eye turning pink or red?

Dr. Arnold: Anything that irritates or inflames the thin membrane over the white part of your eye and the inner eyelids can cause a conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Your eye is red because the blood vessels in this part of the eye are more prominent because of the irritation.

Meghan Kulig: What are the causes of pink eye?

Dr. Arnold: Pink eye can be caused by viruses or bacteria. These types are contagious. Environmental allergens or irritants can also cause a conjunctivitis, but these types are not contagious between people.

Meghan Kulig: How do the treatments differ?

Dr. Arnold: Your healthcare provider will help you decipher which type of pink eye you or your child has. The type is important, because viral conjunctivitis normally goes away on its own. Bacterial conjunctivitis is often treated with antibiotic eyedrops to help the eye heal more quickly and reduce the risk of spreading it to others. For a conjunctivitis caused by allergies or something in the environment like fumes, artificial tears or allergy eyedrops may be helpful.

Meghan Kulig: How do people commonly get the contagious form of pink eye?

Dr. Arnold: Common methods of spread include touching your eyes if you have been exposed to an infected person, sharing objects like towels, or from improperly cleaned contact lenses. If you have it in one eye, you can spread it to the other eye.

Meghan Kulig: Any tips to reduce the spread of pink eye?

Dr. Arnold: If you have conjunctivitis, try to keep things as clean as possible, by washing your pillowcase frequently, and disinfecting doorknobs and light switches. You are going to want to throw out make-up that could potentially be contaminated like mascara and liquid eyeliner to keep from re-infecting yourself. Compresses on the eye can also spread infection from one eye to the other, so if you have an infection in one eye, don't use that compress on the other eye.

Meghan Kulig: Kids usually don't like having eye drops put in their eyes. Any hints to get the medication in?

Dr. Arnold: Oftentimes the drops have to be used several times a day. If your child won't let you put the drops in his or her eye, you can try putting them on the inner corner of the child's closed eye, so that the drops flow in when the eye is opened. Antibiotic ointments are also an option.

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