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What’s the Difference Between Bacterial and Viral Conjunctivitis?

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Is your eye red, swollen and teary? Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a likely culprit.

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the white part of the eye, and is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection or a severe reaction to an allergen, such as pollen. Infectious conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so it's best to head to your eye doctor as soon as possible to receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

What is Bacterial Conjunctivitis?

Bacterial conjunctivitis is an eye infection most commonly caused by staphylococcal,  streptococcus or haemophilus bacteria. It generally affects one eye, but can be present in both eyes.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Whites of the eyes appear pink or red
  • Excessive tearing
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Burning in the eyes
  • Scratchy feeling in the eye
  • Yellow or green discharge from the eye
  • Crusting of the eyelids or lashes, especially in the morning

Bacterial conjunctivitis is generally treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments to eliminate the infection.

What is Viral Conjunctivitis?

Viral conjunctivitis is the most common type of pink eye. It generally affects both eyes and often accompanies a cold, sore throat, runny nose or fever.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Whites of the eyes appear light pink or salmon color
  • Excessive tearing
  • No presence of discharge
  • Itchy eyes

Viral pink eye typically resolves on its own within three to seven days, and is no longer contagious once the eyes have stopped tearing. To alleviate any discomfort, your eye doctor may recommend placing cold compresses on the eyes or applying artificial tear eye drops several times throughout the day. Let your eye doctor know if the symptoms persist after a few days.  

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of conjunctivitis, contact Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park to schedule an eye exam today.

At Lakeline Vision Source, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 512-918-3937 or book an appointment online to see one of our Cedar Park eye doctors.

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Q&A:

Can I wear contact lenses with infectious pink eye?

No. Contact lens wear is not recommended if you have an eye infection, as the virus or bacteria can remain on your contact lenses and reinfect your eyes following treatment. It is best to wait until the eye infection has completely cleared and your eye doctor has approved you to wear contact lenses again. All disposable lenses, whether daily or monthly, that were worn when the eyes were infected should be disposed of and a fresh pair used when you resume wearing lenses.

How can I prevent pink eye from spreading to other family members?

The best way to prevent conjunctivitis from spreading is to be careful with personal hygiene. Encourage all members of your household to wash their hands frequently with soap and to use separate towels. Also, avoid sharing sheets and pillows, and remind all family members to refrain from touching their eyes as much as possible.

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