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Viral Pinkeye

Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is redness and swelling of the mucous membrane (conjunctiva) that lines the eyelid and eye surface. The most common type (adenovirus) is caused by a virus and occurs most often in adults, occasionally causing a sore throat at the same time that pinkeye symptoms occur.

Sometimes children with virus-caused upper respiratory infections develop pinkeye as a separate, bacterial infection. Viral and bacterial pinkeye are contagious and spread very easily.

Pinkeye is very common. It usually is not serious and goes away in 7 to 10 days without medical treatment. But it may last up to 3 weeks and can become ongoing (chronic).

The symptoms usually start in one eye and may then spread to the other eye. Besides redness and swelling in the eye, symptoms of viral pinkeye include:

  • Slight itching or burning.
  • Swollen and tender areas in front of the ears.
  • Increased tearing.
  • Clear or slightly thick, whitish drainage.

Home treatment helps reduce pain, keeps the eye free of drainage, and helps prevent the spread of infection. Home treatment includes:

  • Washing the hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Using warm compresses to help relieve swelling and redness.
  • Changing and washing linens when they become soiled with drainage.
  • Not wearing contacts.
  • Not using eye makeup, and throwing away old eye makeup.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last RevisedNovember 2, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 02, 2011
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.