What is pinkeye?
Pinkeye 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 pinkeye is also called conjunctivitis
(say "kun-JUNK-tih-VY-tus"). The lining of the eye is normally clear and
Pinkeye is common. It usually spreads easily, especially among children
in day care centers and schools.
Because pinkeye is often spread
from eye to hand to eye, good hand-washing is important. Sharing a washcloth,
towel, or other item with a person who has pinkeye can spread the
See pictures of a normal
eye and one with
What causes pinkeye?
Pinkeye 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, pinkeye can be caused by infection with bacteria.
air, allergies, smoke, and chemicals can also cause pinkeye.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of pinkeye
- Itchy or burning
- More tears than usual. The eye may drain a clear or slightly
thick, whitish liquid.
- Gray or yellow
drainage from the eye. Waking up with the eyelashes of
one or both eyes stuck together from this dried drainage is a common symptom of
sensitivity to light.
You may have symptoms in one eye, both eyes, or the
symptoms may spread from one eye to the other eye. When pinkeye is caused by a
virus, symptoms usually start in one eye and may then spread to the other
If you think you have pinkeye, call your doctor to find out
the best way to treat it. 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 pinkeye may also have an ear infection, so they may need to see a doctor.
How is pinkeye diagnosed?
can usually diagnose pinkeye with an eye exam 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
How is it treated?
If your doctor thinks the pinkeye is caused by bacteria, he or she may
prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or eye ointment to kill the bacteria. See a
how to apply eye drops or
eye ointment . With antibiotic treatment, symptoms usually go away in 2 to 3
days. But antibiotics only work for bacterial pinkeye, not for the more common
viral pinkeye. Viral pinkeye often clears on its own
in 7 to 10 days. If your
symptoms last longer, call your doctor.
- Eye Problems: Using Eyedrops and Eye Ointments.