This painful eye condition, which you may hear called conjunctivitis, happens when the conjunctiva -- a thin, transparent membrane that lines your eye -- gets inflamed. Most cases clear up in a few days.
It’s a common disease. Children get it a lot. It can be highly contagious (it spreads rapidly in schools and day cares), but it’s rarely serious. It won’t damage your vision if you find it and treat it quickly.
There are several types:
Viral strains may be the most contagious forms. They tend to start in one eye, where they cause lots of tears and a watery discharge. Within a few days, the other eye gets involved. You might feel a swollen lymph node in front of your ear or under your jawbone.
Ophthalmia neonatorum is a severe form that affects newborns. It’s caused by a dangerous bacteria. Get it treated right away to prevent permanent eye damage or blindness.
What Causes It?
An irritant. It could be a bacterial or viral infection, chemical exposure, or a reaction to eye drops. It can also come from an allergic reaction to pollen, smoke, or other things that bother the eyes. Sometimes it appears after a cold or a sore throat.
Viral pinkeye spreads easily from person to person. Strains include:
- Adenovirus, which often causes the common cold
- Herpes viruses, which cause chickenpox, shingles, and cold sores. This is less common.
Conjunctivitis sometimes results from a sexually transmitted disease ( STD ). Gonorrhea can bring on a rare but dangerous form of bacterial conjunctivitis . It can lead to vision loss if you don’t treat it. Chlamydia can cause conjunctivitis in adults. If you have chlamydia, gonorrhea , or other bacteria in your body when you give birth, you can pass pinkeye to your baby through your birth canal.