Pink eye is characterized by a thick discharge that builds up in the eyes overnight, along with a strong pink or red tint in the white part of the eye. Symptoms of pink eye (conjunctivitis) and allergies are very similar and are often mistaken for each other. Unfortunately, one is highly contagious and the other isn’t, so knowing the difference between these two conditions can protect those around you. The cause of pink eye can be bacterial, viral, or allergic, all of which differ from common allergy symptoms. If you suspect either, talk to your doctor immediately to determine what precautions are necessary.
Causes of Allergic Conjunctivitis:
- Mold Spores
- Animal Dander
- Food allergies
- Household Dust
- Chemical scents (household detergents or perfume)
- Reaction to medications (contact lens solution or eye drops)
Unlike viral and bacterial pink eye, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious but requires different treatment. The membrane inside of the eyelids that covers the eyeball, the conjunctiva, is susceptible to irritation from allergies, especially during hayfever season. There are two main types of allergic conjunctivitis: acute and chronic. Acute Allergic Conjunctivitis is a short-term condition characterized by seasonal eye irritation. Symptoms include eyelid swelling, itching, or burning, along with a runny nose. Chronic Allergic Conjunctivitis is a less common, long-term condition characterized by year-round eye irritation. Symptoms come and go, including eyelid swelling, itching, or burning, as well as light sensitivity.
Bacterial pink eye is usually caused by the same type of bacteria that causes strep throat and staph infections and can be easily treated by antibiotic eye drops. Viral pink eye generally goes away on its own within four to seven days and does not require treatment.
Pink eye that is caused by allergens or irritants generally goes away on its own, but several home remedies can help alleviate the symptoms:
- Warm compress on the closed eye
- Sterile saline eye rinse
- Artificial tear eye drops
- Keeping windows closed
- Indoor air purifiers
- Allergy medication