Skip to content

    Eye Health Center

    Font Size

    Pink Eye

    Pink Eye Overview

    Pink eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the covering of the eyeball and inside of the eyelid). This inflammation may lead to redness, tearing, discharge, itching, and pain. Pinkeye is also called conjunctivitis.

    Pink Eye Causes

    Pink eye is a nonmedical term that encompasses several medical causes of conjunctivitis.

    Most eye doctors would probably associate the term pink eye with mild conjunctivitis caused by bacteria or virus.

    Other causes of conjunctivitis include allergic reaction, and chemical irritation.

    Pink Eye Symptoms

    Mild redness. discharge, and itching are common symptoms of pink eye. Sometimes, it feels like there's something in the eye. Other symptoms of pink eye include:

    • Eyelids stuck shut when you wake up in the morning (the classic symptom)
      • Uncomfortable, thick yellow or green discharge (often a bacterial infection)
      • Thin, clear drainage from the eye (often a viral infection or an allergic reaction)
      • Itching, burning, or feeling like there's sand in your eye (often a viral infection or an allergic reaction)
    • Family member with the same symptoms (indicating that an infection is being passed from one person to another)
    • A recent cold (often a viral infection)
    • Swollen lymph nodes (often a viral infection)

    When to Seek Medical Care for Pink Eye

    Do not assume that all red, irritated, or swollen eyes are pink eye (viral conjunctivitis). Your symptoms could also be caused by seasonal allergies, a sty, iritis, chalazion (an inflammation of the gland along the eyelid), or blepharitis (an inflammation or infection of the skin along the eyelid). These conditions are not contagious. Pink eye, if caused by a virus, is highly contagious.

    Call your eye doctor if any of the following symptoms develop. Your eye doctor may advise you to come into the office to be seen immediately. If you cannot reach your eye doctor, go to the hospital's emergency department.

    • If there is yellow or green discharge from your eye or if your eyelids are stuck together in the morning
    • If you have high fever, shaking chills, face pain, or vision loss
    • If you have severe pain in your eye when you look into a bright light
    • If you have blurred vision, have double vision, or see rings of light (halos) around objects

    If symptoms remain mild but the redness does not improve within two weeks, a consultation with an eye doctor is necessary. The doctor will determine if eye drops or ointments are needed or, in more serious cases, oral or intravenous antibiotics.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Woman holding tissue to reddened eye
    Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatments.
    Simple annoyance or the sign of a problem?
    red eyes
    Symptoms, triggers, and treatments.
    blue eye with contact lens
    Tips for wearing and caring.
    Understanding Stye
    human eye
    eye exam timing
    vision test
    is vision correction surgery for you
    high tech contacts
    eye drop