Facts About "Pink Eye"

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD

Conjunctivitis, known as "pink eye", is an inflammation of the thin, transparent membrane covering the inner eyelid and the white part of the eye known as the conjunctiva. Symptoms of this condition can include:

  • redness of the eyes,
  • eye pain,
  • blurred vision,
  • sensitivity to light,
  • burning or itching of the eye,
  • a scratchy feeling in the eye and,
  • a discharge that may be watery or may contain pus.

Conjunctivitis may begin in one eye but often spreads to involve both eyes.

The term pink eye is most commonly used to refer to the infectious (viral or bacterial) type of conjunctivitis, but conjunctivitis may also result from allergic reactions or from chemical irritants such as air pollution, smoke, or noxious fumes. Rarely, underlying chronic medical conditions including systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis can cause a persistent conjunctivitis. The infectious form of conjunctivitis is very common in children and is highly contagious.