Pink Eye

Symptoms and Treatment of Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink Eye
Conjunctivitis. Image courtesy of the CDC

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is a catch-all term used to describe any inflammation and discoloration of the conjunctiva, a group of membranes that cover the inner lining of the eyelids and the sclera (white part of the eyeball). Normally, the conjunctiva are clear and moist, providing protection from foreign objects and germs to the eyes.

Pink eye can be caused by a virus, fungus, bacteria, allergy or by something irritating the eye.

It is common in places where bacteria or fungus that live in dust can be picked up by the wind and carried.

Rarely, pink eye can be 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 (official terminology for the 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, but if the cause is serious, you can't wait too long. 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 after an infection
  • 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 non-infected eye)
  • Replace eye makeup after your eye heals
  • Wash your hands often (good advice whether you have pink eye or not)

There are other causes of red eye that can affect the eyelids, lashes, cornea, anterior chamber or iris. If you are also experiencing any of the following symptoms or signs, contact your doctor:

  • unilateral (one, but not both) red eye with nausea or vomiting
  • an inability to look at light
  • a feeling as if there’s something in the eye
  • loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • 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.


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