Conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the transparent membrane (or conjunctiva) that covers the front part of the eye and underside of the eyelids. Pink eye is generally the term used when this inflammation is caused by certain types of bacteria. It is a common condition that is usually minor; however it is uncomfortable and when caused by an infection, can be highly contagious.

What Causes Pink Eye?

Pink eye can come from many causes, but it generally is the result of a bacterial or viral infection. In some cases, it may come from allergies, environmental chemicals, or passed on from a mother to child during childbirth. In any case, the underlying cause of pink eye will determine the course of treatment.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Pink eye is named after its primary symptom: when the white part of the eye appears either pink or red. An eye care professional can determine the presence and cause of pink eye through an examination of the conjunctiva and surrounding area.

Aside from its trademark pink coloration, other telltale signs of pink eye include:

  • Feeling of foreign objects in one or both eyes
  • Itching or burning in one or both eyes
  • Yellowish discharge from one or both eyes
  • Excess tearing from one or both eyes
  • Build-up or crusting overnight that makes it difficult to open your eyes
  • Swollen eyelids

Your doctor will determine the exact cause of why your eyes look pink based on your symptoms and how they originated.

Treatments for Pink Eye

Pink eye will generally run its course but many steps can be taken to limit its spread and treat the infection. These include washing hands frequently, using a fresh tissue every time you wipe your eyes, immediately disposing of used tissues, and not sharing anything that may come into contact with your eyes like handkerchiefs, towels, sunglasses, makeup, eye drops, or pillows.

As mentioned, pink eye generally runs its course; any treatment would depend on the underlying cause. Your eye care professional can diagnose the underlying cause based on your symptoms. For viral conjunctivitis, antiviral medication may be prescribed and for bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotics may be prescribed; these may shorten the course of the infection.


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