Pink eye can affect people of all ages, from babies to adults. However, it tends to appear more among children and the elderly, most likely due to their weak immune systems.
Adults and senior citizens may get pink eye through various ways. It’s possible that they’ve touched surfaces infected with bacteria, or they swam in a pool that contains viruses, without wearing goggles. Droplets from the person sneezing next to you may also cause pink eye.
Symptoms of Pink Eye in Adults
Among adults, the symptoms of pink eye are similar to what children or the elderly may get. Classic examples include red eyes, increased tear production and a discharge on the corner of the eye. Depending on the source of the inflammation, some unique symptoms may appear (read more about the Symptoms of Pink Eye).
Watch Out for These Types of Pink Eye
There are four types of pink eye based on the cause, two of which are contagious, while two are not:
• Viral Conjunctivitis
Viral conjunctivitis is caused by an adenovirus, which targets organs lined with mucous membranes, causing respiratory-related illnesses such as the flu.
Since your eyes contain a mucous membrane for protection, there’s a possibility for them to become infected should an adenovirus latch onto them. This is a contagious type of pink eye.1
• Bacterial Conjunctivitis
The second type of contagious pink eye is caused by bacteria, which is commonly attributed to the Staphylococcus aureus strain. The symptoms caused by bacteria are very similar to adenoviruses.
To determine the proper course of treatment, samples are usually taken from the discharge from your infected eye.2
• Chemical Conjunctivitis
Chemical conjunctivitis refers to non-contagious pink eye that’s caused by exposure to chemical-based irritants. Examples include smoke from vehicle exhausts, chlorine in swimming pools or chemical vapors from certain household products. This condition normally lasts for a day or two only.3
• Allergic Conjunctivitis
Pink eye may occur as a result of an allergic reaction, causing watery eyes along with itching. Similar to chemical conjunctivitis, this condition may only last for a day or two and may quickly subside. Common allergy triggers include pollen, pet dander and dust.
If you notice that a certain substance can trigger your allergies, it’s recommended you remove it from your home to prevent your pink eye from becoming chronic.4
Treatment and Prevention Methods for Pink Eye
When pink eye strikes, there are several things you can do to help relieve your symptoms. If the pink eye is caused by an allergy, you can apply a cold compress to help soothe the swelling. If the cause is bacteria, you can apply honey to your eyes to kill them. Unfortunately, viral conjunctivitis has no known cure, so you need to wait it out until you get better.
Should you contract viral conjunctivitis, it’s important to practice safe hygiene to prevent it from spreading. If you’re sneezing due to the flu along with pink eye, you must cover your mouth to prevent droplets from landing onto surfaces that other people may touch. You should not share and borrow clothing and hygiene products such as towels with other people as well. Contagious bacteria or viruses may be present in the fabric, which can possibly spread pink eye if you’re not careful.