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Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis) - Topic Overview

How is pinkeye diagnosed?

A doctor 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 infection.

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 picture of how to apply eye drops camera.gif or eye ointment camera.gif. 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.

actionset.gif Eye Problems: Using Eyedrops and Eye Ointments.

If the pinkeye is caused by an allergy or chemical, it will not go away until you avoid whatever is causing it.

Home treatment of pinkeye symptoms can help you feel more comfortable while the infection goes away.

  • Wash your hands often. Always wash them before and after you treat pinkeye or touch your eyes or face.
  • Use moist cotton or a clean, wet cloth to remove crust. Wipe from the inside corner camera.gif of the eye to the outside. Use a clean part of the cloth for each wipe. If the infection is in only one eye, be careful not to spread it to the other eye.
  • Put cold or warm wet cloths (whichever feels better) on your eye a few times a day if the eye hurts.
  • Do not wear contact lenses until the pinkeye is gone. Sterilize your contacts, and clean your storage case. If you wear disposable contacts, use a new pair when your eye has cleared and it is safe to wear contacts again. Wait at least 2 days after the symptoms are gone before you wear contacts again.
  • If the doctor gave you antibiotic eyedrops or ointment, use them as directed. Use the medicine for as long as instructed, even if your eye starts to look better sooner. Keep the bottle tip clean, and do not let it touch the eye area.
  • Do not wear eye makeup until the pinkeye is gone. Throw away any eye makeup you were using when you got pinkeye.
  • Do not share towels, pillows, or washcloths while you have pinkeye.
  • Use allergy eyedrops and medicines to reduce symptoms of pinkeye caused by allergies.
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