Your eye is composed of different parts that all work together in synergy to give you clear vision. But there is one important part that rarely gets talked about — the conjunctivas, or the mucous membranes that cover each of your eyes.
The role of the mucous membranes is to provide protection from foreign objects and help prevent your eyes from drying up due to constant exposure to the outside world. You’ll find other organs covered with mucous membranes as well, such as your mouth, ears and your respiratory tract.1 Like your eyes, these organs are constantly exposed to foreign elements.
But what happens when a conjunctiva becomes infected due to a virus or chemical exposure? You will most likely experience a condition known as pink eye.
Pink Eye: One of the Most Common Eye Infections
Pink eye is the colloquial name for conjunctivitis, which is the clinical term for conjunctiva inflammation. Around 3 million cases of pink eye are documented annually in the U.S. alone,2 with children being the largest demographic.3 However, anyone can get pink eye, including newborn infants.4 Below are the underlying causes of pink eye:5
- Viruses — Several types of viruses are known to cause pink eye, but the adenovirus is the most prominent group. This specific family of viruses targets mucous membranes, causing not only pink eye but contagious respiratory illnesses such as flu or the common cold as well.
- Bacteria — Similar to viruses, certain strains of bacteria can cause contagious pink eye. Examples include the Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae strains.
- Allergies — Pink eye may develop as an allergic reaction to allergens such as animal dander, dust, molds or pollen.
- Chemicals and other foreign objects — Exposure to chemical fumes such as smoke from a vehicle exhaust may cause inflammation. Meanwhile, wearing contact lenses incorrectly or even having a stray eyelash may cause pink eye.
How Pink Eye Is Spread and What It Looks Like
One of the main causes of pink eye is simply poor hygiene practices. Habits such as sharing towels and infrequent hand-washing can spread viruses to other people. Sneezing and coughing without closing your nose and mouth can spread microorganisms easily as well, especially if you currently have a cold.6
If you do happen to get pink eye, the first thing you’ll notice is that the affected eye will become red and swollen. It may also come with a burning feeling and a strong, itching sensation. Discharge and crusting is also common. If you’re not careful where you place your hands, you may end up infecting your other eye as well.
Learn All About Pink Eye in This Guide
Pink eye is very uncomfortable and can reduce your productivity, because it can cause you to miss work or school for days at a time. Fortunately, there are ways for you to treat it or, more importantly, prevent it from happening in the first place. This guide will teach you what you need to know about fighting and preventing pink eye safely and naturally.