Medically referred to as conjunctivitis, this is the infection of the membrane that protects the whites of the eyes and the inner eyelids. Reasons for developing pinkeye include the introduction of allergy-causing irritants into the eye, bacteria and viruses. Bacterial conjunctivitis and viral conjunctivitis are the most common forms of pink eye, with children being more vulnerable to the infection than adults. Bacterial pinkeye is usually the result of a streptococci or staphylococci bacteria entering the eye and infecting membranes. Symptoms include itching, green or yellowish discharge, extreme redness of the sclera (white part of the eyeball), sharp pain and swelling. In addition, lymph nodes near the ears may be swelled as well.
Adenoviruses are responsible for viral pinkeye and basically produce the same symptoms as bacterial pink eye except the discharge is watery and clear rather than yellowish or greenish. Additionally, viral pink eye affects more people in early spring and/or late fall than any other time of the year. It is often accompanied by sinus congestion and sensitivity to bright lights.
Several home remedies, such as "artificial tears" eyedrops or applying a warm compress on the affected eyes may relieve the pain and itching of pinkeye. If you wear contact lens and develop pink eye symptoms, you might consider not wearing the lenses until your doctor determines the cause of the conjunctivitis. Since bacterial conjunctivitis is much more contagious than the viral kind, the use of contact lenses may only contribute to re-infecting the eye.
Boric acid eyewash is an old remedy that will clean the eye and relieve symptoms. Mix one cup of boiled water with 1/8 teaspoon of boric acid, allow the mixture to cool, and then place one or two eye drops in the affected eye. Pinkeye sufferers can also try placing damp, warm tea bags on infected eyes, which may ease the swelling and pain. Try soaking cotton balls in boiled saltwater, letting them cool, and then placing them on eyelids to help fight bacterial conjunctivitis.
Certain herbs can also be used as natural remedies for pink eye, such as jasmine flowers, calendula and damp chamomile tea bags. Fill a glass jar with distilled water and about 10 to 15 jasmine flowers. Let the flowers soak for eight hours before placing one or two drops of the mixture into the affected eye. Calendula has antiseptic properties and seems to be effective in soothing inflammation. Use calendula as an eyewash or as a compress once or twice a day to relieve symptoms of pink eye.
By Thomas H. Redmond