Pink eye has been oddly popular in pop culture lately: first, as a plot point in Knocked Up and, more recently, befalling Vinny on MTV's Jersey Shore. As a result, contracting pink eye — officially known as conjunctivitis — could elicit snickers from your friends.
The stigma attached to pink eye is that it's caused by — as Jason Segel's character so eloquently states in Knocked Up — "poo particles making their way into your ocular cavities." But really, anyone can get pink eye from many different causes, so read more.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the membrane that lines your eyelids. Most often, the infection is caused by a virus, but it can also result from chlamydia, allergies, and bacteria. Since fecal matter is pretty much guaranteed to contain bacteria, coming into contact with it could cause pink eye, but so can encounters with other common bacteria and viruses.
Viral versions of conjunctivitis are highly contagious and tend to spread, particularly among children; bacterial pink eye can also be contagious, but allergy-prompted pink eye isn't. Symptoms include redness, pain, itching, sensitivity, blurry vision, watering, and a gritty feeling in the eyeball. Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually cured with antibiotics like eye drops, but viral and allergic conjunctivitis should clear up on its own. Use a warm compress over closed eyes to soothe the discomfort.
As with most things, pink eye prevention starts with good hygiene; be sure to wash your hands, especially after a chance of contamination and before handling contact lenses. You can also prevent pink eye by changing pillowcases frequently and not sharing eye makeup, towels, or handkerchiefs with other people. It's also a good idea to keep the hand-eye contact to a minimum.
Have you ever had pink eye? If so, tell us how you dealt with it.