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Pinkeye - Topic Overview

An infection may develop when bacteria enter the eye or the area around the eye. Some common infections that cause pinkeye include:

Symptoms of bacterial pinkeye include:

  • Redness in the white of the eye.
  • Gray or yellow drainage from the eye. This drainage may cause the eyelashes to stick together.
  • Mild pain.
  • Swelling of the upper eyelid, which may make the lid appear to droop (pseudoptosis).

Bacterial pinkeye may cause more drainage than viral pinkeye. Bacterial infections usually last 7 to 10 days without antibiotic treatment and 2 to 4 days with antibiotic treatment. The person can usually return to day care, school, or work 24 hours after an antibiotic has been started if symptoms have improved. Prescription antibiotic treatment usually kills the bacteria that cause pinkeye.

Red eye is a more general term that includes not only pinkeye but also many other problems that cause redness on or around the eye, not just the lining. Pinkeye is the main cause of red eye. Red eye has other causes, including:

  • Foreign bodies, such as metal or insects. For more information, see the topic Objects in the Eye.
  • Scrapes, sores, or injury to or infection of deeper parts of the eye (for example, uveitis, iritis, or keratitis). For more information, see the topic Eye Injuries.
  • Glaucoma. For more information, see the topics Eye Problems, Noninjury and Glaucoma.
  • Infection of the eye socket and areas around the eye. For more information, see the topic Eye Problems, Noninjury.

Swollen, red eyelids may also be caused by styes, a lump called a chalazion, inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis), or lack of tears (dry eyes). For more information, see the topics Styes and Chalazia and Eyelid Problems (Blepharitis).

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 31, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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