Pink eye is redness and swelling
of the lining of the eyelid and eye surface. The lining is called the
conjunctiva (say "kawn-junk-TY-vuh"), and pink eye is also called conjunctivitis
(say "kun-JUNK-tih-VY-tus"). The lining of the eye is normally clear and
Pink eye is common. It usually spreads easily, especially among children
in daycare centres and schools.
Because pink eye is often spread
from eye to hand to eye, good handwashing is important. Sharing a face cloth,
towel, or other item with a person who has pink eye can spread the
See pictures of a normal
eye and one with
Pink eye is most often caused by a virus. It
usually occurs at the same time as or right after you have had a cold. Less
commonly, pink eye can be caused by infection with bacteria.
air, allergies, smoke, and chemicals can also cause pink eye.
Symptoms of pink eye
You may have symptoms in one eye, both eyes, or the
symptoms may spread from one eye to the other eye. When pink eye is caused by a
virus, symptoms usually start in one eye and may then spread to the other
If you think you have pink eye, call your doctor to find out the best way to treat it. And if you are wearing contact lenses, be sure to take them out right away. Certain
health risks may increase the seriousness of your
If you have other symptoms like
eye pain or a change in your vision, if you wear contact lenses, or if you
have other medical problems, you may have a more serious eye problem. In these
cases it is especially important to see a doctor. Young children with pink eye may also have an ear infection, so they may need to see a doctor.
can usually diagnose pink eye with an eye examination and by asking questions about
your symptoms. Sometimes the doctor will use a cotton swab to take some fluid
from around your eye so it can be tested for bacteria or other
If your doctor thinks the pink eye is caused by bacteria, he or she may
prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or eye ointment to kill the bacteria. See a
how to apply eyedrops or
eye ointment. With antibiotic treatment, symptoms usually go away in 2 to 3
days. But antibiotics only work for bacterial pink eye, not for the more common
viral pink eye. Viral pink eye often clears on its own
in 7 to 10 days. If your
symptoms last longer, call your doctor.
If the pink eye is caused by an allergy or chemical, it will
not go away until you avoid whatever is causing it.
of pink eye symptoms can help you feel more comfortable while the infection goes
Pink eye caused by a virus or bacteria is spread
through contact with the eye drainage. Touching an infected eye leaves drainage
on your hand. If you touch your other eye or an object when you have drainage
on your hand, you can spread the virus or bacteria.
tips to help prevent the spread of pink eye:
People with pink eye should stay at home until their symptoms are gone.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Other Works Consulted
Garcia-Ferrer FJ, et al. (2008). Conjunctiva. In P Riordan-Eva, JP Whitcher, eds., Vaughan and Asbury's General Ophthalmology, 17th ed., pp. 98–124. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wright KW (2008). Pediatric "pink eye." In Pediatric Ophthalmology for Primary Care, 3rd ed., pp. 159–187. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofSeptember 14, 2016
Current as of:
September 14, 2016
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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