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Urgent Care For Pink Eye: Your 4 Questions Answered

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If you or your child experiences redness, irritation, or discharge from the eye, an examination might be called for. If you can't schedule an appointment with your regular physician right away, yet your situation doesn't require a trip to the hospital emergency room, visiting an urgent care facility may be a good option. At urgent care, no appointment is necessary and hours are flexible. The urgent care physician will make a diagnosis based upon your symptoms, and will suggest a plan of action to treat it. Here are 4 questions answered: 

1. What Is Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

The medical term for pink eye is conjunctivitis, and it is basically an inflammation of the outer covering of the eyeball, and in some cases, the inner eyelid. It may be caused by several factors. When irritated, the blood vessels of the eye and eyelid will enlarge, and this often leads to a pinkish or red color inside the eye.

2. What Causes This Condition?

There are a few causes that contribute to pink eye. The condition may be caused by a virus (viral conjunctivitis), bacteria (bacterial conjunctivitis) or an allergy (allergic conjunctivitis). Some environmental factors may cause pink eye as well, such as exposure to pollution or fumes. A foreign object in the eye may also be a contributing factor. 

It should be noted that viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are easily spread from person to person, either through contact or by touching a contaminated object then rubbing one's eye. Sneezing and coughing may also spread the viral form. Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious however, as it is not caused by a pathogen.

3. How Will a Diagnosis Be Made?

The doctor will examine the eye to note redness, discolored discharge or crusting around the eyelids. He or she will also ask pertinent questions. A diagnosis will be made based upon the patients' symptoms.

For instance, the doctor may ask if the affected eye itches or burns. He or she may also want to know about other symptoms, such as watering eyes, sore throat, sneezing or sinus issues, all of which may indicate the presence of viral conjunctivitis. If yellow discharge or pus is present, this typically indicates a bacterial infection. However, if the only symptom is eye itchiness, the patient may have allergic pink eye.

4. What Will Treatment Consist Of?

Treatment will depend upon the specific type of conjunctivitis involved. In any case of pink eye, the urgent care physician may recommend a soothing cool compress applied periodically to the affected eye or eyes. A warm compress may be used if it provides more comfort.

Viral pink eye must simply run its course, typically for several days or longer. Over the-counter eye drops may provide some relief from irritation and redness. Bacterial pink eye may require the use of a prescription antibiotic eye drops. For allergic conjunctivitis, over-the-counter eye drops may help, and the doctor may also prescribe an oral antihistamine.

Urgent care is not intended to replace your regular health care provider. Your urgent care physician will recommend a follow up with your primary care physician. It's best to do so shortly after your initial diagnosis.