Pink Eyes and Good Drops

So, your eye is pink. “It must be a pink eye. You need drops, good drops.” This is the simple two-step algorithm you can hear in classrooms and pharmacies everywhere. But, as you might expect, it’s never that simple. That’s why you’re watching this on the vision mechanic.

When we’re talking about ‘the pink eye’, really we’re talking about different kinds of inflammation of different tissues in and around the eyes. That is, we’re talking about the ‘itises’: conjunctivitis, blepharitis, uveitis, scleritis, or keratitis. That is, inflammation and or infection associated with the skin lining the eyes, the lids, the soft tissue inside the eye, and the cornea. Each of these conditions can be caused by allergy, by bacterial or viral infection, by trauma, by different drug use, and by auto-immune concerns, and dryness/exposure. So, in other words, there is no ‘pink eye’, only eyes that look red and pink because of some reason.

Likewise, there is no universal ‘pink eye’ drop. ‘Red eye’ drop formulations are mostly designed around a vasoconstrictor, a compound that is designed to make the arteries supplying the outer eye shrink so you can’t see them. So, in other words, if your eye were on fire, these drops are like cutting the water lines. Look for names like naphazoline or tetrahydrozoline. These compounds constrict blood vessels, period, that’s all they do, and in doing so the eye looks clear and white. It’s no big surprise that these are so popular with young people and concert goers who want to conceal the red eyes of cannabis use, say.

Also, avoid using over the counter antibacterial compounds for too long, like Polysporin. These products contain Bacitracin and Polymyxin B and the body can develop an allergic response against them, leading to the perceived need use more drops, more often. Ignoring the real problem or using these drops for too long will lead to more serious problems.

If you do have a gooey eye, or red eye, try a simple rinse with non-medicated (non-whitening) eye drops aka artificial tears, like Blink. If the drop has a vasoconstrictor, don’t use it. DO NOT ever give whitening drops to firefighters who are battling house or forest fires as these will make things much worse. Again, the best thing is plain old artificial tears. If you want to, and if you feel the problem might be an allergy, try a single drop of an anti-histamine like Soothe, from Bausch & Lomb. You can also have a look at this link for some additional eye-deas (sorry about that).

Finally, I often also advise regular sinus rinses with saline as this helps in clearing the tear ducts and keeps the eyes fresh.

If the problem doesn’t clear up, see an eye doctor before you visit a community health center. Optometrists everywhere will be able to help you out for a fair price and can usually fix it the first time – they’re eye doctors after all. 

You can learn a lot more about eyes and vision at VisionMechanic.net, so feel free to go over and have a look. You’ll be especially interested in spending time with us if you’re a parent, a teacher, therapist or doctor working with reading, developmental, and learning disorders, or even brain injuries – we’ve got a load of good advice we all should have been taught in school.

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All science, with just a little attitude and no filler. That’s the Vision Mechanic. See you next time.

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