Your eyes start itching. You started rubbing them until you are able to satisfy that annoying itch but only to realize that it had turned red. Not much of a deal, right? A few splashes of cold water and you are good to go.
But what when the redness doesn’t go away? Is it an allergy or horrifying pink eye? Who will tell the difference? Of course, the doctor can. But rushing to an ophthalmologist just to realize it’s a mere soap irritation would turn out to be a waste of effort.
To save you from the hassle, Dr. Neeraj Sanduja, MBBS, MS – Ophthalmology, Ophthalmologist, Eye Surgeon, tells you how to differentiate between pink eye and eye allergies.
“Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva which cover the white portion of our eyeball. It can be caused by bacterial or viral infections or even allergies can trigger that. These can occur in one or both eyes, however, allergies always tend to occur in both the eyes,” says Sanduja.
Another difference he says is that pink eye can be highly contagious and is spread via secretions from the eye of the infected person, however, allergies are non-contagious. Allergies are not associated with any discharge or secretions. They are self and visually seasonal. So, although their symptoms might mimic each other. They are two distinct conditions.
The common symptoms of pink eye, Sanduja says, include redness irritation, redness & puffiness of the eyelids discharge, and watering. “Photophobia is another predominant symptom,” he says.
While pink eye is definitely a cause of concern, many tend to ignore eye allergies dismissing them as something normal. But Sanduja says that eye allergies can turn severe if not attended to early.
“The symptoms of eye allergies can vary greatly in severity and presentation person to person. The symptom can range from mild redness to be severe enough to impair vision. Common symptoms are itching, redness, and watering. Though usually self-limiting when the allergies become chronic / perennial they sometimes might lead to keratitis which can also lead to loss or impairment of vision. Hence, early interference is required,” adds Sanduja.
If you are wondering what causes pink eye, it can be due to infection or non-infection causes. “Viral infection, bacterial infection, allergies, chemical conjunctivitis with irritants such as shampoo, dust, chemicals like chlorine etc. are some of the main causes of conjunctivitis,” explains Sanduja.
While pink eyes can be extremely painful, what is, even more, are the myths around them. From pink eye being always contagious to not looking at a person with pink eye, our innocent eyes fall prey to many of these.
“The most common myth that pink eye is always contagious is false. It is only contagious if its due to infections. Another common myth is that if your eyes are red it means you have conjunctivitis but no, it can be due to other causes like foreign body entrance in the eye, glaucoma, scleritis, or uveitis,” explains Sanduja.
While busting a few more myths, he says, that many believe pink eye heals on its own, however, it’s extremely wrong. Pink eye can lead to complications if left untreated.
And if you believed only school-going children get pink eye, here’s the truth by Sanduja. “Pink eye is more common in that age gap but all ages are susceptible to it,” he says.
And, of course, the most important one. Once you’ve had conjunctivitis you become immune to it. “Having it once doesn’t mean you are protected against it in the future. The best way to protect is to maintain good ocular hygiene,” advises Sanduja.
Keep these in mind
If you were looking for a few eye-care tips that will come in handy, Sanduja lists a few.
- Never share face towels or handkerchiefs.
- Always wash your hands and avoid rubbing your eyes. Reduce hand-to-eye contact as much as possible.
- Use sunglasses outdoors. They protect against the sun. dust, and the smoke as well.
- Don’t share eye makeup.
- Maintain good hygiene of contact lenses and clean both the lenses and case frequently.
- Healthy diet is a must
- Regular eye consultation is mandatory.