Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is the inflammation or infection of the membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of the eyeball. Pink eye can be viral, bacterial, or allergic in origin. Pink eye does not impair vision, but it can be very uncomfortable. Pink eye (if caused by bacteria or a virus) can be extremely contagious and should be evaluated immediately.

Symptoms

The following can occur in one or both eyes:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • White discharge in the eye(s), which can form a crust
  • Increased tears

Treatment

Pink eye does not require a specific diagnostic test. Your health care provider will usually ask a series of questions and perform an exam. Antibiotics or antiviral medication may be prescribed for bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis may be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medications.

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • Your eye is painful.
  • Your vision is impaired.
  • The redness increases.
  • The inflammation/infection does not improve with medication within 24 hours.

Causes & Prevention

Pink eye can be caused by upper respiratory infections, when bacteria enter the eye, or through an allergy. The best way to prevent pink eye is with good hygiene practices such as:

  • Washing your hands often
  • Avoiding touching your eyes
  • Properly cleaning your contact lenses, and not sleeping in contact lenses
  • Not sharing things like contact lenses, towels, or washcloths
  • Not sharing eye cosmetics like eye liner or mascara
  • Discarding eye cosmetics every 3 months