Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis)

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Chronic conjunctivitis eye with red iris and pus close-up.Have you heard of someone having Conjunctivitis? Have you heard of someone having Pinkeye? Did you know that they’re the same thing? Conjunctivitis (also known as Pinkeye) is a common condition involving the eye. Even though it might look a bit scary, it’s usually not serious. Read on for more information.

What is Pinkeye?

Pinkeye is the term that people generally use to describe the infectious type of the medical condition “Conjunctivitis”. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation (swelling) of the conjunctiva, which is a thin membrane that lines the inner part of the eyelids and the white part of the eyes. Conjunctivitis can either be infectious (caused by bacteria or a virus), or noninfectious (caused by an allergy or something else, such as chlorine from a swimming pool).

What are the symptoms of Pinkeye?

Pinkeye can affect one or both eyes. The most common symptoms are:

  • Pink/red coloring
  • Eye discomfort – your eye(s) may feel itchy or gritty (almost as if a grain of sand is stuck inside)
  • Discharge – a gooey liquid may come out of your eye(s)
  • Eyelid(s) being stuck together

If you have infectious Pinkeye caused by bacteria, the liquid that comes out of your eye will often be thick (almost like pus). If you have infectious pinkeye caused by a virus, the liquid is often watery. For noninfectious allergic Conjunctivitis, the liquid will usually be watery and itchy.

Is Pinkeye contagious?

Noninfectious Conjunctivitis isn’t contagious, but infectious Pinkeye is extremely contagious. You can catch this type of Pinkeye by touching anything that has come in contact with an infected person’s eye. For example, if someone with infectious Pinkeye touches his/her eye and touches a doorknob, you can pick up the infection by touching the doorknob and touching your eye.

When should I call or see a health care provider?

It’s a good idea to call or make an appointment with your health care provider if you have eye redness, pain, or discharge. He/or she will likely be able to tell if you have Pinkeye. Make sure to tell your health care provider about all of your symptoms and if anyone you know (classmate, friend, or family) has recently been diagnosed with Pinkeye.

What is the treatment for Pinkeye?

The treatment for Pinkeye depends on whether it’s infectious or noninfectious.

If you have noninfectious Conjunctivitis, your health care provider will likely advise you to use eye drops (the same kind used to treat allergies). These are available at most pharmacies without a prescription.

If you have infectious bacterial Pinkeye, your health care provider will give you a prescription for antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Make sure to follow the instructions regarding how often and how long you should use them – even if you’re feeling better. If you stop too soon, the infection could come back.

If I have Pinkeye, is there anything else I can do to help myself feel better?

Yes. If you have Pinkeye, applying a warm compress (a clean cloth soaked in warm water) to your closed eye(s) may help soothe the discomfort.

What can I do to prevent getting Pinkeye?

To prevent getting Pinkeye:

  • Don’t share towels or washcloths
  • Always use your own washcloth and towel
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes
  • Wash your hands often
  • If someone you know has Pinkeye, avoid touching or sharing their personal items
If you’re concerned about Pinkeye, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your provider: “My eye feels sore and is red. Is there anything I should do?”