How Is Pink Eye Spread?

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an infection or inflammation of the clear membrane that covers the white parts of your eyes. When small blood vessels within the eye become inflamed, they're more visible, and appear pink. Pink eye is commonly caused by a viral infection, bacterial infection, or an allergic reaction, and it may affect one or both eyes.

Is Pink Eye Contagious?

Whether the pink eye is contagious or not depends on the cause of your conjunctivitis. Pink eyes are categorized into 3 different types based on the sources of the irritation:

  • Viral conjunctivitis. Caused by a virus, it is one way of how is pink eye spread to others. This type of pink eye is very contagious. Adenoviruses are the most common cause, and it’s also a common respiratory virus that can also cause upper respiratory infections and sore throats.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis. Caused by bacteria, this type of pink eye may cause serious damage to the eye if untreated. Topical anti-microbial therapy is indicated for bacterial pink eye, which is usually distinguished by a fluid discharge.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis. It is caused by eye allergies causing pink eye that affects both eyes. It is triggered by certain substances such as pollen, animal dander, dust mites, cosmetics, contact lenses and lens solution.

Among the three types of pink eye, viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are always contagious, but pink eye caused by allergy will not infect other people.

How Is Pink Eye Spread?

Most people get pink eye through the following ways:

  • You have direct contact with someone who infected with the bacterial or viral form of pink eye.
  • You expose yourself to something that you have an allergy to.
  • You have used contact lenses which are not clean enough.

How to Prevent It from Spreading

It’s important to remember how is pink eye spread, so as to take precautions to significantly reduce the risk of getting pink eye. The following methods will help a lot.

  • Wash your hands frequently at home and when in public places.
  • Keep a hand disinfectant (anti-bacterial) handy, and use it often.
  • Never share personal items such as bath towels, hand towels, or washcloths.
  • Sanitize the surfaces of bathroom vanities, counter-tops, faucet/door handles and shared phones with an appropriate antiseptic cleaner.
  • Cover your mouth and nose using the inside of your elbow when sneezing or coughing, and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
  • Know the pollen count in your area. If you suffer from allergies, consult with your physician on ways to minimize the symptoms before they begin.
  • If you wear contacts, consider switching to daily disposable contacts, or be sure to follow your optometrist’s instructions for lens care/replacement, and use contact lens solutions properly.
  • Do not share your special effect or color contact lenses with others.
  • Before bathing, showering, or swimming, remove your contact lenses to avoid trapping bacteria between the lenses and your eyes.
  • When swimming, wear goggles to protect your eyes from bacteria and microorganisms in the water that may cause pink eye.

How to Avoid Spreading It to Others

Apart from preventing from being infected, it is also vital for the patients to learn how to avoid spreading it to other people.

  • Don't go swimming during your infection, because water is an easy way for the bacteria to spread.
  • Never share personal items with others, especially towel, washcloths, eye make-up, and eyeglasses.
  • Don’t go back to school or company unless your infection passes. It will take you 3-7 days until the symptoms clear up.
  • After you reture to school or company, tell people that you had a pink eye so that they could take some precautions.

Symptoms You’ll Have If You’re Infected

The symptoms of pink eye may affect one or both eyes, and can include:

  • Increased amount of tearing
  • Pink or redness in the whites of the eyes or inner eyelids
  • Gritty feeling in eye(s)
  • A discharge that forms a crust overnight, which can prevent your eye(s) from opening in the morning
  • Itchiness in eye(s)
  • Blurry vision
  • White or green secretion from eye(s)
  • A burning sensation

How to Address the Discomfort

Apart from learning how is pink eye spread, it is also important to know how to ease your discomfort. There are some suggestions you can follow:

1.    Eye-Drops or Ointment

With a viral pink eye, symptoms can last for 7-10 days and then will disappear on their own, although severe cases may last longer. In most cases, no treatment is available for viral conjunctivitis. However, for bacterial pink eye, an ophthalmologist usually will prescribe antibiotic ointment or eye-drops when treating the infection, and taking an antibiotic may speed up the healing process.

2.    Allergy Medications

Allergy medications can often help to shorten or prevent episodes of allergic conjunctivitis. Sometimes these medicines have to be started before allergy season or before any symptoms begin. If you wear contacts, and have allergic conjunctivitis, remove contact with the allergen first, then remove the other contact and wear glasses until your symptoms have completely gone away. Make sure to thoroughly clean your contacts and the storage case.

3.    Home Remedies

Self-help treatment for pinkeye can help reduce the discomfort of pink eye. Try applying a cool/warm damp cloth to the eye(s) by soaking in water. Then gently apply the compress to your closed eye(s) several times daily. If only one eye is affected, take care not to touch the healthy eye, to prevent spreading the infection from one eye to the other.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Many cases of conjunctivitis are usually mild and even do not need treatment. However, there may be times when it becomes important to see a health care provider for more specific treatment and close follow-up. You should see a health care provider if you have pink eye and any of the following conditions:

  • Increased sensitivity to light, or blurry vision
  • Intense redness in the eye(s)
  • Symptoms that don't improve or get worse, including bacterial pink eye that doesn’t improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use
  • Moderate to severe pain in your eye(s)
  • A pre-existing eye condition that can put you at risk for complications or severe infection
  • A weakened immune system, such as HIV or cancer treatment
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