If you have itchy, red eyes that seem worse than is typically experienced with seasonal allergies, you may have pink eye. Also known as infectious conjunctivitis, pink eye is an inflammation of the membrane (called the conjunctiva) that lines the eyelid and eyeball.
Pink eye can be due to an allergic reaction to pollen, dust or other foreign material in the eye, such as contact lens solution; a bacterial infection, which is more common among children than adults; or viruses, particularly those associated with colds or a sore throat, as well as other childhood illnesses. All types of viral or bacterial pink eye are highly contagious.
The symptoms of pink eye can affect one or both eyes and include redness, itchiness, blurred vision, a feeling of grittiness or having something stuck in the eye, tearing or discharge, pain or discomfort when exposed to bright light, and crusts that form on the eyelids overnight.
Young children are the most likely to get pink eye, as the close quarters in school or day care provides the perfect climate for passing it around. Other people at higher risk for developing pink eye include those with allergies to airborne pollen and those who wear contact lenses, particularly extended-wear brands, as both these groups tend to touch and rub their eyes more frequently.
If you or your children experience any of the symptoms above, visit your physician for a diagnosis.