What is Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Conjunctivitis, also known as ‘pink eye’, is an infection of the eye caused by inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that covers the whites of the eyes (front of the eye) and lines the inside of the eyelids. It is caused by virus, bacteria, allergies and irritants (harsh chemicals). The virus can enter the eye through contact with contaminated hands, wash rags, handkerchiefs, contact lenses, etc. It is highly contagious.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis

  1. Pink (red) eyes, especially the whites of the eyes and inner eyelids
  2. Grainy feeling in the eyes
  3. Watery, runny eyes
  4. Itching or burning sensation in eyes
  5. Sensitivity to light
  6. Discharge from the eyes (pus or mucus)
  7. Eyelashes or eyelids crusting over (especially when you wake up)

How to treat and prevent conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is highly contagious. Once diagnosed by a physician, several courses of treatment may be recommended, depending on how it was contracted. Antibiotics (normally in the form of eye drops, ointments or pills) can be recommended, as well as antihistamines for allergy relief. Water can be used to rinse away irritants, or the physician may recommend that the virus be allowed to run its course. While this is happening, be sure to:

  1. Wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after contact with eyes.
  2. Avoid rubbing eyes.
  3. Avoid being in places where you can infect others, like school, work, church, on the road, in vehicles, etc.
  4. Avoid contact with others.
  5. Take infants with pink eye to the nearest doctor/physician as soon as possible.
  6. Use boiled water that has been cooled to clean eyes up to three times daily. Ensure that you discard cotton or tissue after use. Or thoroughly wash rag with soap and water.
  7. Wash bed linen, pillow cases, towels and rags in hot water with soap.
  8. Protect eyes from dirt and other irritants.
  9. Do not wear makeup, and do not share makeup with others.

Source: Jamaica’s Ministry of Health, WebMD