Last spring semester, I remember getting a call from my mom one day who told me that I should not come home because my dad had pink eye. Pink eye, formally known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of tissue in the eye, causing redness and swelling. Since I am the best son in the world, I found this absolutely hilarious and asked her to send me a picture of my dad. He was the complete package: His left eye was completely closed shut, his right eye was swollen and red, and his face somehow managed to look more like Frankenstein than it did before.
Being the curious little go-getter I am, I looked up some of the various signs and symptoms that accompany this illness. I found that symptoms include swelling and redness of the eyes, increased production of tears, various colors of eye discharge, a gritty feeling in the eye and a burning sensation. Definitely not a fun infection to deal with. On top of all of these fun symptoms, I found that pink eye is extremely contagious, which is the reason that my mom told me to not come home. In fact, my mom was very lucky that she herself did not fall ill even though my dad was not shy about spreading his infection all over the house. Since pink eye is very contagious, it comes as no surprise that you really should be staying out of work or school during your infection. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as this infection can affect a person for a few days to over a month.
Given all of these fun symptoms, it may come as a surprise to you that pink eye is actually not too serious of an infection. In fact, you typically do not even have to see a doctor for it. However, there are some complications that can arise that should be seen by a doctor. These scenarios include moderate to severe pain in the infected eye, intense redness, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. Moreover, if you have a weakened immune system, from sources such as HIV, a previous infection or cancer treatment, then it is also necessary to visit a doctor.
In those cases, your body would not be able to fight off the infection, and it could seriously damage your eye. Infants should also be taken to the doctor for pink eye since their immune systems are not fully developed. Even if no complications arise and you feel the need to go to the doctor, then listen to your gut. Honestly, even though it may not be necessary, I do not know many people who would not go to the doctor after learning that they could have it.
Since pink eye can take you out of work or school for over a month, it is our interest to prevent you from even getting it in the first place. Unfortunately, it is extremely contagious, so even with our best efforts, we are not fully immune to it. However, since the main means of getting ill is through the spread of viruses and bacteria, there are a few self-care tips to reduce the risk of getting sick in the first place. These include washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes and avoid sharing visual aids such as eyeglasses and contact lenses. Also, if your best friend has pink eye, then it is probably in your best interest if he or she does not see you for a while. Prevention is your best friend in the first place!
Although I made fun of my dad for having pink eye, I felt really bad for him for that week. Fortunately, he had the bacterial form of the illness, so he was prescribed antibiotics, and it expedited his treatment exponentially. When I went home later that month, however, I was extra careful to avoid touching my eyes. I can guarantee you that after going through this illness, my dad would have rather prevented it in the first place.
(Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)