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How Do You Treat a Bacterial Pink Eye?

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

Pink EyeThe pink eye often improves in two to five days, however, it can take up to two weeks to go away completely. The picture is by Bigstock

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) may happen when the conjunctiva (the clear tissue covering the white part of your eye and the inside of your eyelids) is irritated by an infection or allergies.

The symptoms of a pink eye (conjunctivitis) may include:

  • Pink color or redness in the white of the eye(s)
  • Burning sensation or itching in the eye(s)
  • Swelling of the eye(s) or the eyelid(s)
  • Watering or tearing
  • Foreign body sensation (feeling like a foreign body is in the eye(s) with an intense urge to rub the eye(s))
  • Itching or irritation in the eye(s)
  • Pus or mucus discharge from the eye(s)
  • Crusting of eyelashes or eyelids, especially in the morning

Depending on the cause of the pink eye, certain additional symptoms may occur:

Viral conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis

  • Thick pus discharge from the eyes that causes the eyelids to stick to each other
  • There may be an associated ear infection

Allergic conjunctivitis

  • Usually affects both the eyes
  • Intense itching, tearing and swelling in the eyes
  • There may be other symptoms of allergies, such as an itchy nose, sneezing, a scratchy throat, or asthma.

Conjunctivitis caused by irritants

  • It can produce watery eyes and mucus discharge
  • There may be a history of using eye makeup/cosmetics or exposure to pollution or chemicals.

How long does pink eye last?

The pink eye often improves in two to five days. In some cases, however, it can take up to two weeks to go away completely.

When should I seek medical care for pink eye?

Newborns with signs of conjunctivitis should be immediately taken to a doctor. In other cases, you should visit a healthcare provider if you have a pink eye along with any of the following:

  • pain in the eye(s)
  • discomfort or sensitivity to light 
  • blurred vision that does not improve when discharge is wiped from the eye(s)
  • intense redness in the eye(s)
  • symptoms that get worse or do not improve 
  • weak immunity, e.g., HIV infection, diabetes mellitus, cancer treatment, or other medical conditions or treatments

How do you treat a bacterial pink eye?

A bacterial pink eye usually produces more mucus or pus than a viral or allergic pink eye. Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Antibiotic eye drops or ointment
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Painkillers like ibuprofen 
  • Lubricating eye drops (artificial tears)
  • Warm compresses 
    • Soak a clean washcloth in warm water, wring out excess water, and place it over your eyes.
    • Do this for 10 to 15 minutes at a time
    • Repeat three to five times a day or as often as is comfortable.
    • Use a clean washcloth each time
    • In the case of infectious conjunctivitis in both eyes, use a different washcloth for each eye.
    • Do not rub or touch the eyes
    • Until the eye heals, do not wear makeup or contact lenses.

Antibiotics are not always essential for the treatment of a pink eye; however, they may be necessary in the following cases:

  • Presence of discharge (pus) from the eye
  • People with low immunity 
  • When certain bacteria are suspected

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