It’s easy to take your eye health for granted until you have a problem. Redness, itchiness, and eye pain or discomfort can be the result of an infection, or it could be nothing more than an allergy. A pinkeye infection, also known as conjunctivitis, should be seen by a physician or eye care specialist, while allergies will pass with time. But how do you know which condition you have, and when to see a doctor?
What is Conjunctivitis?
Pinkeye or conjunctivitis can be viral or bacterial. The viral form of conjunctivitis typically accompanies cold symptoms. If you have a runny nose, cough, and sore throat, along with itchy, red, goopy eyes, you could be experiencing viral pinkeye. The solution for viral pinkeye is to wait for the cold virus to pass.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria coming in contact with the eye. It’s contagious and more common among children and childcare workers. This form can be treated with antibiotic eye drops. If your pinkeye is accompanied by no other symptoms, you may have the bacterial form and should seek eye care as soon as possible.
What sets these two forms of conjunctivitis apart from allergies is inflammation, which is best evaluated by a physician. Allergic eye redness is not contagious but you should still avoid touching your eyes or wearing contact lenses while your eyes are red. Your doctor can prescribe allergy medicine and eye drops to relieve your symptoms.
When Should I See a Doctor for Eye Care?
If you have itchy, red eyes, avoid rubbing or touching them. This will irritate them further and risk spreading the infection if you have one. If you have pinkeye symptoms with no cold or allergy symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible to begin antibiotic treatment and avoid spreading the condition to others. For allergy-induced eye irritation, you can wait for it to pass for mild symptoms. If your allergies are severe, consider seeing an allergist who can administer testing and may recommend medication and immunotherapy.
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