Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the tissue that covers the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. It is called the conjunctiva.
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There are many causes, such as:
- Allergens, such as seasonal allergies
- Chemicals from things like air pollutants and chlorine
The bacterial form is more common in children.
Things that may raise the risk are:
- Spending time in crowded or close spaces
- Contact with an infected person
- Sharing towels, linens, or other items with an infected person
- Having seasonal allergies or contact with known allergens
- Being around chemical irritants
- Wearing contact lenses
- Teary eyes
- Pink color in the white part of the eye
- Swelling of the eyelid
- Itching or burning eyes
- Pus-like discharge
- Sensitivity to light
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. An eye exam will be done. Eye discharge may be checked for signs of infection.
Treatment will depend on the cause.
Most forms of conjunctivitis clear up with time. Some people may be given antibiotic eye drops or ointment to treat the bacterial form. Antibiotics cannot treat the viral form.
Artificial tears may be used. Some may have antihistamines in them to further ease symptoms. These are found at many stores.
These methods may help ease problems:
- Cold or warm compresses
- Avoiding any causes of irritation
- Not wearing contact lenses until problems are gone
To lower the chance of this problem:
- Use good hand hygiene.
- Do not share personal items with others.
- Do not share makeup or eye drops with others.
- Avoid allergens.
American Optometric Association
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Allergic conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/allergic-conjunctivitis. Updated November 16, 2018. Accessed November 21, 2019.
Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis: a systematic review of diagnosis and treatment. JAMA. 2013 Oct 23;310(16):1721-1729.
Infectious conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/infectious-conjunctivitis. Updated February 7, 2019. Accessed November 21, 2019.
Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/eyes/Pages/PinkEye-Conjunctivitis.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed November 21, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD Last Updated: 8/18/2020