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Pink Eye

Symptoms and Treatment of Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

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Updated May 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Woman rubbing eye

Keep your hands away from your eyes. If you're not careful you could spread the infection to your other eye.

Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis

Image courtesy of the CDC

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is a catch-all term used to describe any inflammation of the conjunctiva, a group of membranes that cover the inner lining of the eyelids and the sclera (white part of the eyeball).

Pink eye can be caused by a virus, fungus, bacteria, allergy or by something irritating the eye. Sometimes, pink eye is a sign of a more serious infection like chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Pink Eye Symptoms

  • A pink eye (the normally white part of the eye turns pink or red)
  • Goop (thick discharge that collects at the corners of the eye)
  • Crust on the eyes when the goop dries
  • Tears
  • A feeling of grit or sand in the eye
  • Pain in the eye
  • Itching
  • Blurry vision

Pink Eye Treatment

The only true treatment of pink eye will come from your doctor and will depend on what's causing the pink eye. If the pink eye is caused by an allergy, antihistamines might help. If it's caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be necessary.

Pink eye might clear up all by itself. If the pink eye is not getting better after 3 days, call your doctor.

Try soothing the pain of pink eye by placing a warm compress on closed eyes. Soak a clean cloth in warm water to make the compress.

Pink Eye Is Contagious

Viral and bacterial pink eye are both very contagious. To avoid spreading the infection to others or getting reinfected after you've recovered, follow these tips:

  • Change pillowcases
  • Don't share eye makeup
  • Don't share towels or handkerchiefs
  • Clean contact lenses properly
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes (you can spread it from the infected eye to the good eye)
  • Replace eye makeup after your eye heals
  • Wash your hands often
There are other causes of red eye that can affect eyelids, lashes, the cornea, anterior chamber or iris. If you are also experiencing any of the following symptoms or signs, contact your doctor:
  • unilateral red eye with nausea/vomiting
  • inability to look at light
  • feel as if there’s something in the eye
  • loss of vision
  • history of trauma to the eye
Your physician will be able to diagnose more serious conditions or will refer you to an eye specialist if needed.

Source:

Vorvick, L. "Conjunctivitis." Medline Plus. NIH. Updated 10 Nov 2008. Accessed 28 Oct 2009

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