North County Laser Eye Associates

Understanding Pink Eye: Viral and Bacterial Conjunctivitis

At North County Laser Eye Associates, we provide a full range of eye care services, from comprehensive eye exams that allow us to detect conditions that affect vision in their earliest stages to state-of-the-art custom LASIK. Included in this vast array of services is treatment of common eye infections, disorders, and diseases, including viral and bacterial conjunctivitis. At our San Diego practice, we help our patients recover from this irritating condition, colloquially known as pink eye, as quickly as possible so that they can limit its spread and get on with their daily lives.

What is conjunctivitis?

The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that lines the inside of your eyelids and covers the whites of your eyes. When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed or infected, the blood vessels contained within become more visible, making the whites of your eyes appear pink or light red. This is why conjunctivitis is more popularly known as pink eye.

Although conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, exposure to chemicals, and the entry of foreign objects into the eyes, this blog post deals specifically with two infectious types of conjunctivitis, namely bacterial and viral:

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

As its name suggests, this form of conjunctivitis occurs as a result of exposure to bacteria, usually through contact with an individual who is carrying one of the types of bacteria associated with the condition or with a contaminated surface. It can also be contracted through an infection of another part of the body, such as the sinuses or the ears.

In addition to the obvious symptom – the whites of the eyes turning a pinkish color – the most notable symptom of bacterial conjunctivitis is a thick discharge from the affected eye or eyes. Depending on the severity of the infection, our eye care experts may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or simply recommend allowing the infection to run its course.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Like bacterial conjunctivitis, viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious; however, this form of conjunctivitis can be contracted through exposure to airborne viruses spread through coughing and sneezing. As with bacterial conjunctivitis, the whites of the eyes turn a pinkish color, but the tell-tale symptom of viral conjunctivitis is a watery discharge from the affected eye or eyes, rather than a thick discharge. While bacterial conjunctivitis may be limited to one eye (assuming that the patient washes his or her hands frequently and does not rub or otherwise make unnecessary contact with the unaffected eye), viral conjunctivitis can also spread to both eyes eventually, even though it may begin in only one eye.

Although antibiotics are not affective against viral infections, our eye care experts may still prescribe eye drops or ointments to help manage the symptoms of viral conjunctivitis. In general, however, viral conjunctivitis tends to subside on its own within a week or two.

Learn More about Viral and Bacterial Conjunctivitis

To learn more about viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, or to schedule an appointment with one of our esteemed eye doctors, please contact North County Laser Eye Associates today.