Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Eki Wari and Physician Brandon Yew on July 5, 2022

Best Pink Eye Treatments Beyond Eye Drops

If you or your child woke up this morning with red eyes, you might think that it's the beginning of a pink eye infection. This guide can help explain the difference so you can seek the proper treatment.

Pink eye min

To the untrained eye, pink eye can look a lot like red eye. This can make it hard to know whether or not you’re dealing with an infection.

Without swift and proper treatment, a pink eye infection can go from bad to worse quickly, putting your vision and health at risk.

In this guide, our medical team explains what you need to know about properly identifying pink eye symptoms and the steps you can take towards treatment.

What Is Pink Eye?

Pink eye in babies or infants should be treated as a medical emergency.

The medical term for pink eye is conjunctivitis. It refers to an infection or irritation of the conjunctiva. This is the clear tissue that covers the inside of your eyelids and the white part of your eyes.

It may lead to swelling and redness in this part of your eyes. You may also experience red, itchy, dry, burning, or watery eyes.

If an infection is present, you may notice an unusual fluid, pus, or discharge coming from your eyes.

Pink eye is contagious and can be spread from one eye to the other. It can also be spread from person to person.

Therefore, it is recommended that you wash your hands often and avoid sharing personal items, like towels, pillowcases, bed sheets, or makeup.

Newborns with red, puffy eyelids or who have discharge coming from their eyes should be seen by a doctor immediately.

Causes

Pink eye occurs when the blood vessels in your conjunctiva become inflamed, making them more noticeable. This inflammation is caused by:

  • Viruses: This is the most common cause. Examples of viruses that cause pink eye include Adenovirus and COVID-19.
  • Bacteria: Bacterial infections may be caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumonia.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): This includes STDs that are caused by a virus, such as herpes, or those caused by bacteria, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Allergens: Irritants may include pollen, mold, or other substances that cause allergies. Other possible causes may include irritating substances that get in your eyes, such as shampoo, dirt, contacts, cosmetics, and pool chlorine.

In babies, pink eye can be due to a blocked or incompletely open tear duct. This requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms

Anyone can get pink eye, but you are most at risk if you recently had a respiratory infection, wear contact lenses, or come in contact with someone who has it. You may also get it if you are exposed to something you are allergic to.

Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Red or pink eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Crusty eyelashes
  • Itchy, burning, or watery eyes
  • White, green, or yellow discharge coming from your eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Feeling like you have something in your eye
  • Blurry vision

In children, pink eye is often accompanied by an ear infection. Therefore, your child may have swollen lymph nodes or a lump in front of their ears.

Is Pink Eye Dangerous?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a pink eye infection may indicate that there is a systematic problem within the body.

According to Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew, “TCM advocates holism. This means that every biological unit, though structurally and functionally distinct, are closely related and interdependent of each other for the entire body to function properly. If one unit is impaired, the others will be affected directly or indirectly through a cascade of complex biological pathways.”  

“There is this concept in TCM called microsystem. It states that every part of the body can be a holographic representation of the entire body,” Physician Yew continued.

Essentially, different components of the eyes have direct connections to respectively different organs, and therefore, eye conditions can indicate internal problems in certain organs or systems. 

Pink Eye Pathology, According To TCM

Unlike Western medicine, which states that pink eye is caused by external factors like bacteria or a virus, TCM takes a different approach.

Physician Yew explained, “There is no such concept of bacteria, virus, and other sorts of microbiological pathology in TCM. From a TCM perspective, a pink eye infection is a result of a conflux of the Wind and Heat or Fire pathogen. This can be either exogenous or endogenous.”

“For the former, it is from the surrounding environment (natural or man-made) that the patient is exposed to. For the latter, it arises from the internal imbalance of the Yin and Yang among the viscera, especially the Liver, Heart, and Lungs,” Physician Yew continued.

Western Medicine Treatment Options

Eye drops are the most common treatment option. This may include:

  • Antibiotic or steroid drops and ointments
  • Anti-viral eye drops or medication
  • Allergy eye drops
  • Artificial tears

According to the National Eye Institute, viral infections tend to get better on their own within one to two weeks. Bacterial pink eye may require antibiotics to speed up the healing time. Ask your doctor about options.

TCM Treatment Options

TCM treatments may include herbal formulas or acupressure.

Herbal remedies

Here are some herbal formulas and ingredients you can use:

  • Huang Lian Shang Qing Pian 
  • Xia Sang Ju granules 
  • Chrysanthemum 
  • Shrub chaste tree fruit 
  • Mint leaf 
  • Prunella spike (Selfheal)
  • Mulberry leaf 
  • Pale butterfly bush flower 
  • Cicada slough 
  • Cassia seed 
  • Dandelion 
  • Dendrobi 
  • Flastem Milkvetch seed 
  • Dodder seed 
  • Gastrodia tuber 
  • Puncturevine caltrop fruit 
  • Glossy Privet fruit 
  • Wolfberry 

“However, please always bear in mind that the herbs and formulas provided above are meant for generic cases of pink eye infection. Some people might benefit, others might not or experience worsening of their existing condition or even give rise to new problems,” cautions Physician Yew.

“As such, it is strongly advised to not purchase any of them to self-medicate without first undergoing a thorough consultation and proper assessment followed by professional guidance by a TCM practitioner,” he continues.

Acupressure

Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy you can do by placing fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints. Apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a sore/aching sensation or numbness. At the same time, massage in both clockwise and anticlockwise circular motion 20 times each. Repeat for at least 3 minutes per acupoint.

Here are some acupoints you can try at home:

  • Feng Chi GB20
  • He Gu LI4
  • Tai Chong LR3
  • Tai Yang EX-HN5
  • Jing Ming BL1
  • Yi Feng SJ17
  • Cheng Qi ST1
  • Tai Xi KI3
  • San Yin Jiao SP6

Do take note that acupressure can only help to relieve mild cases of pink eye infection. It is still strongly recommended to seek professional TCM help, especially for those suffering from a more severe condition, preferably in conjunction with an ophthalmologist. 

Seek Immediate Help For Infections

If you think you have an infection, seek medical care immediately. Your doctor can determine if your condition is viral or bacterial. This will help them determine the proper treatment. Never try to self-medicate at home without consulting a TCM physician first.

References

  1. National Eye Institute. Pink Eye.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis).
  3. John Hopkins Medicine. Pink Eye. 

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