Understanding and Differentiating Various Pinkeye Causes

What is Pinkeye

Pinkeye is the more common name of a medical eye condition referred to as conjunctivitis. When you see someone with the condition, the eyes are more reddish than pink. It refers to an inflammation of the thin transparent membrane called conjunctiva which covers the whites of the eyeballs as well as inflammation of the inner tissue lining under the eyelids.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the causes which can be viral, bacterial or allergenic. Typical symptoms common to all pinkeye conditions include red eyes or hperaemia, irritation or chemosis where there’s some pain, burning and itching sensation for which the urge to scratch is there, and watering or epiphora where there’s watery discharge or uncontrolled tears that may contain pus. The most obvious symptom, apart fro the reddening of the eyes, is the swollen puffy eyelids. Some swelling of the lymph nodes can also be felt in front of the ears

The pupils are not affected and while the condition does not alter your visual acuity, there’s temporary visual blurring, and hypersensitivity to light. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are contagious. They are commonly passed on from contact with an infected person, though the use of contaminated objects, waters or foods can also pass the infection.

Causes of Pinkeye

The most common trigger for the condition is a viral infection that is known to strike one eye but will eventually spread to infect both eyes. The virus identified as the culprit belong to a class called Adenovirus. The ailment is often referred to as viral conjunctivitis. It is not uncommon for viral pinkeye to occur in the fall or early spring when cold-like ailments such as sinus congestion, runny nose and other upper respiratory tract infections often precede or accompany it.

Bacterial pinkeye is commonly caused by a class of pyogenic or pus-producing bacteria such as Staphylococci and Streptococci. This can be distinguished from viral infection with a yellowish or grayish micropurulent discharge that can get eyelids to stick together after a period of sleep, causing some kids with bacterial pinkeye to panic when they can’t open their eyes in the morning. Acute bacterial pinkeye can be quite painful and like viral pinkeye can affect one or both eyes. In addition, the bacterial infection is often dormant for three days before symptoms appear.

Allergies to certain chemical vapors, seasonal pollens, dust, animal dander or air pollution can trigger temporary symptoms similar to pinkeye. Allergic pinkeye is non-infectious and exhibit most of the symptoms of contagious variants except the appearance pus and pain. There’s more itchiness or irritation, swelling and tearing and are often accompanied by other allergy symptoms such as itchy nose, sneezing, itchy and sore throat.

Pinkeye symptoms can also be experienced when certain chemicals enter and irritate the eyes and are called irritant, toxic or chemical pinkeye. Some of these chemicals include liquid detergents and household cleaning fluids, gluing compounds, hairsprays and perfumes, cigarette smoke, noxious fumes and industrial pollutants.

Foreign objects that get lodged in the eye such as minute powdery particulates, saw dusts, wood splinters, etc. Some common household chemicals like bleach and furniture polish can be also cause the symptoms or could be more damaging. In general, chemicals with acidic or alkali properties cause mild burns to the eyes and produce conjunctivitis symptoms. Alkali chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide, are more caustic and can result in more painful burns than acidic chemicals and could even cause a necrosis of the conjunctiva with a whitening of the cornea.

Pinkeye Caused by Underlying Illnesses

In a few cases, persistent pinkeye symptoms occur and don’t go away after a week which is the usual time when viral and bacterial pinkeye cases resolve themselves untreated. Most of the time, these pinkeye conditions are just symptomatic of underlying diseases more commonly from systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. They can also be associated with Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Other Causes

A special condition related to pinkeye is subconjunctival hemorrhage where the eye reddening happens as the tiny blood vessels around the whites of the eyes under the conjunctiva membrane rupture. The rupturing occurs when there’s undue pressure or blood gushing to the cranial cavity of the brain which happens with forceful laughter or coughing, vomiting, bending upside down or diving. Generally considered harmless, the condition can easily frighten people when they look at the mirror to see a literally bloodshot eye or two.