Common Ailments

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

When should I seek immediate medical attention?

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is inflammation or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids (conjunctiva). Pink eye refers to a viral or bacterial infection of the conjunctiva. These infections are very contagious. There are many causes of pink eye. The most common cause of pink eye is viruses. Other causes are allergies, bacteria, chemical exposure, and contact lenses.

What are the symptoms?

  • Increased tearing
  • Eye pain
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Itching of the eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Crusts that form on the eyelid overnight matting the eyelashes

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis is typically made by the signs and symptoms that you have and after examination of your eyes.

How is it treated?

Medication, usually eye drops, is effective for pink eye and will help prevent bacterial conjunctivitis. Most infections will even resolve on their own. Eye drops should be inserted in the inner part of the lower eyelid. The discomfort with pink eye can be soothed by applying warm compresses (a clean cloth soaked in warm water) to closed eyes. Eye secretions are contagious for 24 to 48 hours after therapy begins.

Things that may help prevent pink eye

  • Keep hands away from the eye
  • Wash the hands frequently
  • Change pillowcases frequently
  • Replace eye cosmetics regularly
  • Do not share eye cosmetics
  • Do not share towels or handkerchiefs
  • Proper use and care of contact lenses. Throw away current pair of contact lenses and after symptoms are gone, use a new pair of contacts.

Reasons to call the health center

  • Severe eye pain
  • Decreased vision
  • No improvement in 24 to 48 hours
  • Discharge (drainage) from the eye.