Pink Eye/Eye Discharge

Pink eye (aka conjunctivitis) can be caused by a variety of reasons. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Bacteria: Often causes a green/yellow or mucus-like discharge and the white of the eye and inner eyelids will usually be red. The discharge often causes the eyes to be stuck together. Treatment typically involves using antibacterial eye drops or ointments. And yes, it usually is very contagious and the primary reason why daycares, preschools, and schools alike will send your child home when it is a concern.
  • Viruses: Like bacteria, viruses are an infectious cause of pink eye where the eye is quite red and tearing with some white discharge is often noted. Antibiotic eye drops/ointment may still be used; secondary to the concern of having both a bacterial and viral cause of the pink eye simultaneously.
  • Allergies: Eyes will typically be red and itchy and often associated with a clear discharge. Treatment measures are typically two-fold: allergen avoidance and topical anti-allergy eye drops. Of note, occasionally other allergy medications (both oral and intranasal corticosteroids) may also be used.
  • Environmental irritants: Think of the smoke lingering in the air after a fire or the dust that occurs with house renovations.
  • Corneal abrasions: Usually follows a scratch (often seen with those who wear contact lenses) and can cause tearing, redness, and eye pain. Photophobia (light irritation) can also occur as well.

And so what do you do when your child has pink eye/eye discharge?

Even before calling the office, it is certainly okay to wipe away any discharge with a warm, moist cloth. Expect to bring in your infants and young toddlers as there can often be an ear infection associated with infectious related pink eye. For older children, it may be possible to arrange for a phone consultation with one of our physicians, but again, please contact our office for further direction. However, if there is any concern of a corneal abrasion, an immediate evaluation is in order, and if necessary, with a pediatric ophthalmologist. Also, if there is an inadequate response to treatment measures after three days or any visual problems and/or eye pain, an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist is also in order.

And a few comments about blocked tear ducts: Blocked tear ducts are quite common in the newborn/infant population. In this age group, these ducts (which help to drain the tears from the eyes into the nasal cavity) can often become kinked and ultimately clogged. With no room to pass through the ducts, the tears often well in the corner of the infant's eye and may occasionally become infected. Some things you can do at home include: wiping away the drainage with a clean, moist cloth, and massage the tear ducts (although there is some debate as to the effectiveness of this measure) in a circular fashion downward in between the corner of the affected eye and the nose a few times throughout the day. If you are breastfeeding it is okay to express 1-2 drops of breast milk (secondary to its antibiotic properties) and apply them to the corner of the affected eye a few times throughout the day. But if these are not helpful or confirmation is what you seek, please come see us for further evaluation and care. Typically, a baby will outgrow these blocked tear ducts, but occasionally further evaluation and treatment by a pediatric ophthalmologist may be required if the tear duct remains blocked as the infant approaches 1 year of age.