Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is one of the most common eye problems in the US, affecting about 6 million people a year. It can be highly contagious, especially among school-age children who can spread it throughout their schools and play areas.
It’s called conjunctivitis because it affects the conjunctiva, which is the thin layer of tissue that lines your eyelids and the whites of your eyes. It’s commonly called pink eye because when the small blood vessels in your conjunctiva become irritated and inflamed, they’re more visible, causing the whites of your eyes to look pink or reddish.
Pink eye can have bacterial, viral, or allergic causes, among others. Both the viral and bacterial types of pink eye are highly contagious, so it’s important to schedule an appointment with one of our expert pediatric ophthalmologists at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists as soon as possible.
Do you suspect your child might have pink eye? Here are the five common signs of pink eye to help you figure it out.
Red or pink eyes
Hence the common name, most cases of pink eye are easy to spot because one or both eyes look red and irritated. They also feel irritated.
However, red eyes can have a variety of causes, including when dirt gets in them, you don’t get enough sleep, or excessive computer use. Although not all pink or reddish eyes mean an infection, all kids with pink eye infections have one or two pink eyes.
Itchy or burning eyes
If you notice your child is rubbing their eyes repeatedly or they’re complaining that their eyes burn, your child may have pink eye. To relieve these symptoms, place a cool, damp washcloth on their eyes to help stop the itching and burning sensations.
Eye discharge can come in the form of thick mucus, yellow pus, or clear, sticky discharge. In some cases, this discharge results in your child’s eyelashes sticking together. You can help separate them by flushing them with warm water.
Excessive tearing or watery eyes is a common symptom of pink eye. Sometimes the discharge from pink eye is watery and sticky rather than thick and pus-like. Watery eyes are a common symptom of allergic conjunctivitis.
A gritty feeling in your eye
A gritty feeling or the feeling that something is in your eye can be the result of something actually in your eye, or an infection or irritation. This sensation can lead to watery, irritated eyes, whether something really is in your eye or it’s a pink eye infection.
Fortunately, pink eye is easy to treat with antibacterial eye drops or allergy medicine, depending on the cause of the condition. In some cases, it goes away on its own.
If you think your child has pink eye, call ABC Children’s Eye Specialists to make an appointment with one of our experienced pediatric ophthalmologists and optometrists. You can also request an appointment online through our website.