Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. When small blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, they're more visible. This is what causes the whites of your eyes to appear reddish or pink.
Pink eye is commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction, or — in babies — an incompletely opened tear duct.
Though pink eye can be irritating, it rarely affects your vision. Treatments can help ease the discomfort of pink eye. Because pink eye can be contagious, early diagnosis and treatment can help limit its spread.
Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is the inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and eyeball. It's characterized by redness and a gritty sensation in your eye, along with ...
The most common pink eye symptoms include:
When to see a doctor
People who wear contact lenses need to stop wearing their contacts as soon as pink eye symptoms begin. If your symptoms don't start to get better within 12 to 24 hours, make an appointment with your eye doctor to make sure you don't have a more serious eye infection related to contact lens use.
In addition, there are other serious eye conditions that can cause eye redness. Typically, these conditions will also cause pain and blurred vision. If you experience these symptoms, seek urgent care.
Causes of pink eye include:
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis
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.
Adults and children alike can develop both of these types of pink eye. However, bacterial conjunctivitis is more common in children than it is in adults.
If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you may experience intense itching, tearing and inflammation of the eyes — as well as sneezing and watery nasal discharge. Most allergic conjunctivitis can be controlled with allergy eyedrops.
Conjunctivitis resulting from irritation
Risk factors for pink eye include:
In both children and adults, pink eye can cause inflammation in the cornea that can affect vision. Prompt evaluation and treatment by your doctor can reduce the risk of complications.
Preparing for your appointment
Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any eye-related signs or symptoms that worry you. If your signs and symptoms persist or get worse, despite treatment, your doctor may refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For pink eye, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
To determine whether you have pink eye, your doctor will examine your eyes. Your doctor may also take a sample of eye secretions from your conjunctiva for laboratory analysis if you have a very severe case of conjunctivitis, if your corneas are affected or if you've had repeated infections that aren't responding to treatment.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis
Treatment for viral conjunctivitis
Antiviral medications may be an option if your doctor determines that your viral conjunctivitis is caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis
Lifestyle and home remedies
To help you cope with the signs and symptoms of pink eye until it goes away, try to:
Preventing the spread of pink eye
Although pink eye symptoms may resolve in three or four days, children with viral conjunctivitis may be contagious for a week or more. Children may return to school when they no longer experience tearing and matted eyes.
If your child has bacterial conjunctivitis, keep him or her away from school until after treatment is started. Most schools and child care facilities require that your child wait at least 24 hours after starting treatment before returning to school or child care. Check with your doctor if you have any questions about when your child can return to school or child care.
Preventing pink eye in newborns
Last Updated: 2012-07-25
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