PHOENIX -- A Valley doctor says a severe strain of pink eye is making its way around the Valley.
According to Dr. Timothy Sinek, most of the cases they're seeing at Southwestern Eye Center are viral and highly contagious.
Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is redness and inflammation of both the clear membranes that cover the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids -- the conjunctiva.
Most cases of conjunctivitis are caused by a virus or bacteria, but allergies, chemicals or an underlying disease can also spark pink eye.
Both viral and bacterial pink eye are quite contagious. The best defense is to wash your hands often and avoid rubbing your eyes. Also, do not share towels, change towels and linens, particulalry pillowcases, every day and throw away any eye makeup that might have become contaminated.
While pink eye is relatively common, especially in children, and rarely serious enough to cause long-term vision damage if treated promptly, it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Symptoms include red eyes, swollen eyelids, eye pain, blurred vision, excessive tearing, itchy eyes, a burning sensation in the eyes, drainage that can be either clear with viral pink eye or greenish-yellow with bacterial pink eye, crusty eyelids, sensitivity to light and a feeling that you have something in your eye.
The symptoms generally show up in one eye first and then spread to the other eye within a few days.
If any of these symptoms because severe, it could be a sign that the infection has spread beyond the conjunctiva, which means you should contact your doctor immediately.
While bacterial pink eye can be treated with antibiotic eye drops, ointments and pills, viral pink eye usually needs to run its course although the symptoms themselves can be treated.
Doctors usually suggest cold or warm compresses on the eyes to relieve pain and remove discharge. Be sure to use a clean washcloth each time to avoid spreading the infection.
Sinek says most infectious cases of pink eye will clear up in about 10 days.
With viral conjunctivitis, you are contagious as long as you exhibit symptoms. In cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, you are usually good to go within 24 hours of starting antibiotics as long as the symptoms are better.