Pink Eye

What infections cause pink eye, what are infectious pink eye symptoms, and how are they treated? (Part 2)

Bacterial pink eye

Staphylococci and Streptococci, are types of bacteria that commonly cause pink eye. Gonococci and chlamydia may also cause bacterial pink eye. Symptoms of pink eye caused by bacteria occur rapidly and can include

  • eye pain,
  • swelling,
  • itching,
  • redness,
  • a moderate to large amount of discharge, usually thick and yellow or greenish in color,
  • swelling of the lymph nodes in front of the ears.

The discharge commonly accumulates after sleeping. Affected children may awaken most unhappy that their "eyes are stuck shut," requiring a warm washcloth applied to the eyes to remove the discharge. Bacterial pink eye is treated by repeated warm washcloths applied to the eyes (try applying these to your child's eye one eye at a time during a favorite video) and requires antibiotic eyedrops or ointment prescribed by the doctor.

Be careful not to use medication prescribed for someone else, or from an old infection, as these may be inappropriate for your current infection or may have been contaminated from other infections by accidentally touching the medicine bottle to infected areas. A safe, effective, and potentially less frightening method of putting drops into the eyes of children involves asking your child to lie down flat, with instructions to merely "close your eyes," and placing the recommended number of drops in the inner corner of the eye, next to the bridge of the nose, and letting them make a little "lake" there. When your child relaxes and opens the eyes, the medicine will flow gently into the infected mucous membranes without the need to "force open" the eyes.

When you feel that you or your child might have bacterial pink eye, it is very important to see your doctor immediately for several reasons. First, if the cause is a bacterial infection, an antibiotic will be needed to help the infection-fighting immune system to kill this infection. Secondly, if you are experiencing other symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, earache, etc., there is a good chance that these symptoms are caused by the same bacteria, and an oral antibiotic may also be needed to treat this infection along with the antibiotic drops or ointment for the eyes. Oral antibiotics are also required for some types of bacterial pink eye. Finally, your doctor will want to exclude the possibility that the infection has spread to areas where the symptoms may not yet be recognizable.

Reviewed on 2/14/2014

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