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.
Children and adults who develop infectious pink eye should see a doctor to determine whether antibiotic treatment is necessary. Most cases of infectious pink eye are caused by viruses and will not respond to antibiotic treatment. In these instances, the discharge from the eye is clear and watery and symptoms of a cold may be present. Viral pink eye infections usually last from about seven to ten days.
Bacterial pink eye
Quick GuidePink Eye (Conjunctivitis) Symptoms, Causes, Treatments
Pink eye is spread through direct contact with infected persons. To reduce the chance of spreading infectious pink eye, those affected should avoid touching the eye area and wash their hands frequently, particularly before applying medications to the eye area. Sharing of towels, washcloths, cosmetics, or eye drops can also spread the infection.
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