While you may find a home remedy such as lemon juice tempting, self-treatment of pink eye is dangerous because this condition is a symptom of many different eye ailments, some of which are very serious and may cause permanent scarring. The most common forms are highly contagious, so a prompt visit to your eye doctor can protect those around you while reducing your risk of serious complications.
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Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation that affects the conjunctiva, a clear membrane that covers your eyelid and the front portion of your eyeball. It may be the result of a viral or bacterial infection, or it may be an allergic reaction. Injury from a chemical splash or debris in your eye also may cause conjunctivitis. Contact lenses, especially the extended wear type, may make your eyes more vulnerable to such an infection. Sexually active adults may develop pink eye from bacteria related to sexually transmitted diseases. Symptoms include redness, itching, watering, discharge, a gritty feeling, blurred vision, pain and sensitivity to light. You may experience these symptoms in one or both eyes. If left untreated, or if treated wrongly with home remedies, conjunctivitis may cause scarring that will permanently affect your vision.
A Symptom of Other Diseases
The pinkish cast that gives conjunctivitis its informal name is the result of tiny blood vessels in your eye becoming more prominent due to pressure from inflammation. Certain diseases may cause your eye to turn pink even though you may not have an infection. These include dry eye, blepharitis — or swelling of the eyelid — Reiter’s syndrome, Lyme disease, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, sarcoidosis and vascular disease. Lemon juice is not effective against any of these diseases and the acid will irritate your already-strained eyes.
While some people claim that lemon juice has helped their pink eye symptoms, this home remedy is dangerous because the acid content is an irritant that may exacerbate your condition. Effective treatment depends on the cause of your pink eye. If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, or in an extreme case, steroids. If the infection is viral, no drug or home remedy will cure the infection, but your doctor may prescribe medication to help you cope with the symptoms until the virus runs its course. If the condition is related to allergies, your doctor will treat the underlying problem with medications such as antihistamines, decongestants or anti-inflammatories, which he may prescribe in eye-drop format. If you have a foreign object in your eye causing irritation, your eye doctor will remove the irritant and may prescribe medication to treat or prevent infection. If your contact lenses are the culprit, your eye doctor will direct you to stop wearing them, but she may prescribe another brand of lens made of a different material once your eyes have healed.
The viral and bacterial forms or pink eye are contagious. To prevent the spread of infection, do not share towels, washcloths or eye cosmetics. Change your pillowcases frequently and wash your hands regularly. Clean your contacts thoroughly according to your doctor’s direction and keep your hands away from your eyes. Replace your eye cosmetics frequently. If you are prone to allergies, vacuum and dust your home often and close doors and windows on days when there is a high pollen count in your area. If you swim, use goggles to protect your eyes from chlorination in pools or bacteria and debris that may be present in natural bodies of water. Do not use lemon juice as a preventative. It may irritate your eyes and lead to infection.