PINK EYE - Watsons Health


Pinkeye (also called conjunctivitis) is redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, the tranparent membrane that lines your eyelid and cover the white part of your eyeball. This is commonly caused by bacterial infection, viral infection or allergies.

Pinkeye is very common. It usually is not serious and goes away in 7 to 10 days without medical treatment.

Most cases of pinkeye are caused by:

  • Infections caused by viruses or bacteria.
  • Dry eyes from lack of tears or exposure to wind and sun.
  • Chemicals, fumes, or smoke (chemical conjunctivitis).
  • Allergies.

Your risk of having pink eye increases with:

  • Exposure to something for which you have an allergy (allergic conjunctivitis).
  • Exposure to someone infected with the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis.
  • Use of contact lenses.

Causes of pink eye include:

Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis may affect one or both eyes. Viral conjunctivitis usually produces a watery discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis often produces a thicker, yellow-green discharge. Both types can be associated with colds or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a sore throat.

Both viral and bacterial types are very contagious. They are spread through direct or indirect contact with the eye secretions of someone who’s infected.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis affects both eyes and is a response to an allergy-causing substance such as pollen. In response to allergens, your body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE).

If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you may experience intense itching, tearing and inflammation of the eyes — as well as sneezing and watery nasal discharge.

Conjunctivitis resulting from irritation

Irritation from a chemical splash or a foreign object in your eye is also associated with conjunctivitis. Sometimes flushing and cleaning the eye to rid it of the chemical or object causes redness and irritation. Signs and symptoms, which may include watery eyes and a mucous discharge, usually clear up on their own within a day or two.

Symptoms common to all causes of pinkeye include:

  • Redness in the white of the eye.
  • Swelling of the eyelids.
  • Itching or burning feeling of the eyelids.
  • Swollen and tender areas in front of the ears.
  • A lot of tearing.
  • A discharge that forms a crust during the night that may prevent your eye or eyes from opening in the morning.


To diagnose pink eye (conjunctivitis), your doctor will look for the usual symptoms, such as burning, itchy eyes that discharge a thick, sticky mucus and tearing. Often, the cause can be determined from your symptoms, medical history, and the eye exam findings alone.

Your doctor may take a swab of the discharge from your eye to send to the lab to determine the cause.

He or she may also take a sample of eye secretions for laboratory analysis if:

  • You have a very severe case of conjunctivitis
  • Your corneas are affected
  • You’ve had repeated infections that aren’t responding to treatment



Home remedies

Home remedies might be enough to soothe pink eye symptoms associated with colds, minor infections, or allergies. Treatment consists primarily of cleansing the eyes.

To help relieve the discomfort of pink eye, apply a warm compress for 5 to 10 minutes, three to four times a day. Preservative-free artificial tears can be applied a few times a day. Never use steroid eye drops or medications from a friend without a doctor’s prescription.

Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis

More than half of bacterial conjunctivitis cases will clear up in one to two weeks without treatment. Taking an antibiotic may speed up the healing process. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or ointment. Ointment may blur vision for up to 20 minutes after application.

Treatment for viral conjunctivitis

In most cases, no treatment is available for viral conjunctivitis. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication if your condition is caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis

If you have allergic conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe from among many different types of eyedrops for people with allergies. These may include:

  • Drugs that help control allergic reactions, such as a combination of antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers
  • Drugs that help control inflammation, such as decongestants, steroids and anti-inflammatory eyedrops.

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