Family Health Guide

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Eye Irritations: Causes


There are three types of pinkeye -- bacterial, viral, and allergic. Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are contagious, which is why proper preventative measures like hand washing are so important.

  • Both bacterial and viral pinkeye spread when kids touch the infected eye and then touch, well, anything. Another child can then touch the contaminated object and then touch their eyes. The infection is also transmitted through shared objects like towels, washcloths or pillows.
  • Allergic pinkeye is caused by different allergens in the air. It is not contagious and is usually seen between spring and fall, when the air is full of pollen.

Blocked Tear Duct

Tear ducts are tiny tubes that normally drain tears from the eyes into cavities near the nose. Before birth, the tear ducts are solid tubes of cells. These cells are programmed to self-destruct when the baby is born, but this doesn't always happen (or at least not on time). The blockage causes excess tears to well up in the eyes because they are unable to drain. Most blocked tear ducts clear and drain normally within a few weeks to a few months. Less common causes of blocked tear ducts are local infections and trauma to the bone and tissue around the eyes.