Pink eye – symptoms, causes and treatment

Are your eyes suddenly swollen, red and emitting a sticky discharge? If so, it could be pink eye. Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin, transparent membrane that protects your eyes. It can affect one or both eyes and can easily spread from person to person. 

Pink eye symptoms 

Pink eye

There are several pink eye symptoms, including: 

  • red eyes 
  • burning eyes 
  • itching eyes 
  • watery eyes 
  • sensitivity to light 
  • eye discharge (mucus, pus) 
  • gritting sensation in the eyes  
  • puffy eyelids  
  • blurred vision 

What causes pink eye? 

Knowing the cause of pink eye is key to treating the condition properly. There are 3 main causes of pink eye: 

pink eye causes

  1. Viral conjunctivitis – This is the most common type of pink eye. Because it’s highly contagious, it often spreads in schools and other crowded places. Common signs of viral conjunctivitis include water discharge, red eyes, and a burning sensation. It’s typically caused by the same virus that causes sore throats and runny noses associated with the common cold. Similarly, to a cold running its course, the same is true for viral conjunctivitis. It usually lasts 4-7 days.  
  1. Bacterial conjunctivitis – This form of pink eye is also very contagious. Caused by a bacterial infection, bacterial conjunctivitis causes sore, red eyes. It’s also characterized by sticky discharge in the eyes – although it’s possible to experience little or no discharge. To treat bacterial pink eye, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, eye drops or ointments.  
  1. Allergic conjunctivitis – Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction to an irritant such as animal fur, cigarette smoke, pollen, car fumes, pool chlorine or other environmental factors. Unlike bacterial and viral conjunctivitis, it is not contagious. Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include puffy eyelids and red, itchy, watery eyes. To treat allergic conjunctivitis, you will likely be prescribed antihistamines to help you find relief. The best way to treat your allergy is to avoid any allergy triggers. 

Other causes 

Pink eye can also be caused by dry eye, glaucoma, inflammation, and more. Once we know the cause of your pink eye, we can begin treating it properly. 

The importance of pink eye treatment  

pink eye treatment

If you suffer from pink eye or notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s important to book an appointment as soon as possible so that your eyes can get assessed by a qualified optometrist using special equipment.  

If not treated properly, pink eye can cause your eyes to worsen or even damage your vision. Our experienced optometrists will assess your eyes using special magnified equipment. This will allow them to accurately diagnose the cause of your pink eye so that appropriate treatment can be put in place.  

Contact our optometrists in Ontario 

If you are suffering from or suspect you have pink eye, don’t hesitate to book an emergency appointment with our Ontario optometrists. Contact us to book an appointment here.