According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, pink eye or conjunctivitis is one of the most common and treatable eye conditions in children and adults. It’s an inflammation of the thin, clear lining inside the eyelid and on the white of the eye. This inflammation gives the eye a pink or reddish color.
Conjunctivitis is caused by viruses, bacteria, allergens (like pet dander or dust mites), and irritants (like smog or swimming pool chlorine) that infect or irritate the eye and eyelid lining.
Depending on the cause, the signs and symptoms for conjunctivitis may vary, but they usually include —
- Redness or swelling of the white of the eye or inside the eyelid
- Increased amount of tears
- White, yellow or green eye discharge
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Gritty feeling in the eye
- Crusting of eyelids or lashes
The treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the cause. Conjunctivitis is usually mild and will often get better on its own, even without treatment. However, there are times when it is important to see a doctor and get an antibiotic or other medical treatment.
Conjunctivitis that is caused by allergens or irritants is not contagious, but a secondary infection by viruses or bacteria is possible. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are very contagious and spread easily and quickly from person to person. By following some simple self-care steps, like washing your hands and not touching your eyes, you can reduce the risk of getting or spreading conjunctivitis.
If you have conjunctivitis, you should see your doctor if you have—
- Moderate to severe pain in your eye(s)
- Blurred vision or increased sensitivity to light
- Intense redness in the eye(s)
- A weakened immune system, for example, from HIV or cancer treatment
- Bacterial conjunctivitis that does not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use
- Symptoms that continue or get worse