What Is “Pink Eye”?
By Kevin A. Rogers, OD
Rogers Regional Eye Center
“Pink Eye” can be scary words to many parents and teachers, but what exactly is “pink eye” and, more importantly, how is it treated? “Pink eye” generally refers to Viral Conjunctivitis. The symptoms usually, but not always, consist of burning, mild itching, redness, watery to slight mucous discharge, and recent illness. It usually starts in one eye and then involves the fellow eye in a few days. Now the important part: making the correct diagnosis and thus implementing the correct treatment.
Something that has helped doctors diagnose Viral Conjunctivitis in recent years is a point of care test called AdenoPlus. This is done in the office at the time of the patient’s appointment. A small sample of tears is collected and then within 10 minutes you have an answer. The test is not 100% accurate, but adds tremendous value into the diagnostic process. Once a diagnosis of Viral Conjunctivitis has been made the correct treatment is imperative.
Most patients are prescribed an antibiotic eye drop. If this helps, then you never had Viral Conjunctivitis, because an antibiotic does nothing against a virus. Today the proper treatment is a 2 step process. Step 1, the most important, involves betadine – yes, the same stuff used before surgery. Betadine is an antiseptic. It kills bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc. Betadine is applied to the eye and left to sit for 60 seconds. The eye is then flushed with saline. This one step reduces the contagious period from 7-10 days down to 48 hours. This is huge when you think of the impact that has on missing either school or work.
The second step is to prescribe a steroid eye drop. The steroid drop is used to help the eye feel better by managing the symptoms. The patient should take other precautions to hopefully reduce the chances of contaminating others or re-contaminating themselves. Examples of this would be to not share cell phones, wash your pillow case daily, spray Lysol on all door knobs, wash your hands multiple times throughout the day, and other common sense precautions. If you have any questions about this please email me at Questions@RogersREC.com.