Given the number of colds and viral infections during this winter season, is it common to get pink eye, or conjunctivitis?

What is pink eye or conjunctivitis?  Pink eye or Conjunctivitis is a condition where there is inflammation of the thin membrane that covers the white part of your eye and the insides of your eyelids called the conjunctiva. This area has many small blood vessels that become swollen and more noticeable when the conjunctiva becomes irritated.  This causes the eye and eye lids to look swollen and pink.

What is the cause of Pink Eye?  Pink eye is caused by the same viruses that can cause a common cold and is very contagious.  I think most of us can remember if we have ever had pink eye.  It is uncomfortable to a degree because of the swollen itchy eye and eyelids, and it is incredibly noticeable because the “whites” of our eyes are very pink.   Usually, we spread pink eye because we rub our eye when it is infected and touch door knobs, shopping carts, someone else’s hand, re-using tissues and towels when wiping your face and eyes and by forgetting to wash your hands often and touching your eyes.  Not cleaning your contact lenses properly can also cause pink eye.  If you do get pink eye this winter (and we hope you don’t!)  you can use a cool compress or artificial tears that have been chilled in your fridge to help relieve some of the symptoms while you are waiting for it to go away.

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis can last from a few days to two weeks and usually clears up on its own but you should see a doctor to make sure that you do not have a severe case of pink eye where you would benefit from anti-inflammatory drops prescribed by an ophthalmologist.  If you have LASIK or PRK scheduled you will have to reschedule your refractive surgery procedure until after you have been cleared of conjunctivitis.

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