Infections, conjunctivitis, pink eye

What is pink eye?

Conjunctivitis, better known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. While pinkeye can be alarming because it may make the eyes extremely red and can spread rapidly, it's a fairly common condition. It usually goes away within a week and causes no long-term eye or vision damage.

What causes pink eye?

Pink eye can be caused by many different things, but mostly by bacteria or viruses:


When the eyes are red with yellow or green drainage oozing or crusting in the eye throughout the day and night, then bacteria are usually the culprit. The eyelids may also be swollen, and it can affect one or both eyes.


When the eyes are very red, but there is no drainage or only a small amount of drainage or crusting upon waking up, then it is probably viral conjunctivitis. This usually affects both eyes.


Allergic conjunctivitis is usually seasonal and occurs mostly in the spring. The eyes are red with no drainage and unusually itchy. This typically affects both eyes.

Foreign Body

A piece of sand or dirt stuck under the eyelid can cause redness, tearing, pain, and drainage. This usually affects one eye.

Plugged Tear Duct

This is a problem for newborns up to one year of age. It is eye drainage without any eye redness and can affect one or both eyes. 

Scratched Eye

This can cause redness, tearing, and is very painful. It only affects the eye that received the injury.

Dry Eyes

Stems from the absence of tears or after exposure to sun or wind

Chemical Conjunctivitis

A result of chemicals, fumes, or smoke


Warm Compress

Hold a warm, wet washcloth against the eye and gently wipe away any drainage.

Saline Eye Drops

Also called artificial tears, and can soothe the eye, no matter the cause. These can also be used to flush out any sand or dirt stuck in the eye.


—Antibiotic ointment or drops (this is the treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis only)
—Allergy eye drops: There are several prescription and over-the-counter antihistamine drops that can help alleviate eye allergies.
—Visine: These over-the-counter drops can help with redness and irritation of sore eyes, except with bacterial conjunctivitis.

Pink eye is generally not serious and should improve with treatment or time. However, contact your doctor if the pink eye does not improve after 5 days of treatment, if it worsens, or you have any changes in vision.

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