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"Pink Eye" in the common sense is just another way of saying an eye infection. When a red eye is infectious, but just as the word implies, it is also contagious which can often be transmitted via casual contact and cause people to miss out on work, or children to have to stay home from school until the eye clears up. Usually these types of infections are not painful, but more so annoying.
However, when an eye is red and painful there may be more involved and more serious than just a typical eye infection. See the following symptoms to be more concerned with: 1. Pain, 2. Unusual sensitivity to light , 3. white spots on the cornea (front of the eye that covers the iris), 4 Concurrent Blurred vision in affected eye. Some examples of things that may cause this are listed below.
Another term for this is known as Anterior Uveitis and it is usually noninfectious and it is just a away that our eyes present inflammation inside of the eye. It is cause from autoimmune disease of which there are numerous conditions that can cause it such as (more commonly) Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Sarcoidosis, Tuberculosis, and Crohn's syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, others less commonly are TINU syndrome, Sjogren syndrome. Also eye trauma may cause iritis.
Some infectious causes are Corneal infections, Herpes Zoster Keratitis, Lyme Disease, herpes simplex and syphillis.
Iritis is characterized by unusual sensitivity to light, cloudy or blurred vision, eye pain, redness around the cornea, and perhaps a headache on the side of the painful eye(s). Nontreatment of iritis can result in glaucoma, and permanent loss of vision.
Herpes Simplex and Zoster Keratitis
A herpetic simplex virus and zoster affect the eyes in similar ways but there are some differences in the presentation and treatments. Characterized often by moderate to severe eye pain and unusual sensitivity to light, patients also experience burning sensation in the eye and increased soreness upon blinking. Also, the eyelids may feel sensitive to a soft touch or in the wind. A herpes zoster infection may begin as "Shingles" is seen on one side of the face with red sores that eventually scab over.
Herpetic infections need to be monitored closely by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, failure to initiate treatment may cause corneal scar formation, or perforation, and subsequent vision loss. Treatment involves use of topical and/or oral antiviral medication and sometimes the use of steroids. If steroids are used, more often with herpes zoster, then follow up may be needed for weeks to months.
Low immunity can result in these types of infections which can often be attributed to excessive and prolonged stress, poor immune health, exposure to excessive sunlight and more.
Contact Lens Keratitis & Corneal Ulcers
Contact Lens wear abuse is often a culprit in the onset of these corneal edema (swelling) and corneal ulcer formation. Those who wear their contact lenses without removing 7 days a week are 17 more times likely to develop an eye infection of some sort. Corneal ulcers and edema often occur in those that do not dispose of their contacts on a scheduled basis or do not remove them regularly.
Symptoms of contact lens keratitis may include, a red or painful eye, unusual light sensitivity, and blurred vision. Sometimes people experience eye redness with contact lens wear and after the lenses are removed the eye whitens up again only to have them turn red after re-inserting the lens some time later. This cycle will continue unless treatment is sought and initiated otherwise removal of the contact lens will help but without treatment may take weeks to months for the eye to clear up.
A corneal ulcer exhibits similar symptoms only the pain may be more severe and a white spot may be visible on the cornea (see pictures below). Removal of the contact lens is a must and frequent use and early treatment of topical antibiotics is very important for successful resolution.