A picture of pink eye

Pink Eye Pictures and Videos: What Does Conjunctivitis Look Like?
Closeup of an eye with pink eye (conjunctivitis).

Pink eyeis when the white of the eye gets swollen and red. Doctors call this condition conjunctivitis, and it can be caused by different things. Although its usually not very serious, pink eye is infectious and highly contagious if it is caused by bacteria or a virus.

Doctors may prescribe antibiotics for bacterial pink eye. If you have viral pink eye, it's a lot like the common cold, and will usually clear up in a few days on its own. There are some home remedies for pink eye, depending on the cause. If you are having eye allergies, this can also be called conjunctivitis, but its not contagious.

Video: How Does a Child Get Pink Eye?

Close up of an eye with pink eye (conjunctivitis) and mucus.

Close up of an eye with bacterial pink eye (conjunctivitis) and mucus.

Closeup of an eye with pink eye (conjunctivitis).

Close up of an eye with viral pink eye (conjunctivitis).

a picture of pink eye
Slideshow: Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis) -- Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments


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Cleveland Clinic: "Conjunctivitis."

Nemours Foundation. KidsHealth.org: "Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis)."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Conjunctivitis. "

American Academy of Ophthalmology Conjunctivitis: What is Pink Eye?"

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

What Is Pinkeye?

A woman holds a tissue to her irritated eye.

Pinkeye is a common name for conjunctivitis, a condition that causes inflammation and redness of the membranes inside the eyes. Viruses, bacterial infections, allergies, or chemical agents can cause pinkeye. Sometimes it is the result of a chronic medical condition. Most commonly, a virus or bacterial infection causes pinkeye.

Is Pinkeye Contagious?

Two girls blow noisemakers at a party.

Infectious forms of pinkeye are highly contagious. It is easily transmitted among humans by contact with an infected person or objects that are shared with an infected person. Coughing and sneezing are other possible routes of spread. Children with pinkeye will need to stay home from school or daycare for a short period of time. Pinkeye due to allergic reactions or contact with chemical agents is not contagious.

Symptom: Eye Redness

Eye redness is a symptom of pinkeye.

The hallmark sign of pinkeye is redness of the eye. Pinkeye is very common and rarely causes long-term problems or vision damage.

Symptom: Swollen, Red Eyelids

A young girl with a swollen eyelid from pinkeye

Infections that cause of pinkeye usually start first in one eye and then spread to the other eye within a few days. Allergic reactions usually involve both eyes right away. Swelling of the eyelids may be seen; this is particularly common with bacterial infections and allergies.

Symptom: Lots of Tearing

A close-up view of heavy inflammation in the eye.

Increased production of tears (watery eyes) is common in viral and allergic pinkeye.

Symptom: Itchy or Burning Eyes

Eye irritation caused by viral conjunctivitis.

Other symptoms of pinkeye include itching and burning of the eyes.

Symptom: Drainage From the Eyes

Acute bacterial conjunctivitis with pus around the eye

Watery eyes are common with viral and allergic pinkeye. When the eye drains greenish-yellow fluid as seen here, this is most likely to be caused by bacterial pinkeye.

Symptom: Crusty Eyelids

Crusts on a swollen eyelid from a viral infection.

Sometimes people with pinkeye awaken in the morning with their eyes "stuck shut" due to discharge that is produced during sleep.

Symptom: Sensitivity to Light

Sunspots from bright light filter through the trees.

Mild sensitivity to light can accompany pinkeye. But severe pain, severe sensitivity to light, and vision changes are all signs that the infection may have spread beyond the conjunctiva. These symptoms should prompt a visit to the doctor for an examination.

Symptom: Foreign Feeling in the Eye

A young man rubs his irritated eye.

Sometimes pinkeye can feel like there is something in your eye, or a feeling of sand in the eye. Children with pinkeye may describe their symptoms this way.

Diagnosing Pinkeye

An optometrist examines a patient.

Pinkeye can often be diagnosed simply by observing the typical symptoms and signs. In some cases, the doctor will examine the eye with a slit lamp instrument, as shown here. Samples of discharge from the eyes may be taken and sent to a lab to identify the infection in some cases.

When Pinkeye Means Something More

A boy with conjunctivitis takes an eye exam.

Chronic pinkeye can signal the presence of an underlying medical disease. These are most commonly rheumatic diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Pinkeye can also be associated with Kawasaki disease (an uncommon disease that causes fever in infants and young children) and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Pinkeye Treatment

Close-up of a man applying drops to the eye.

Antibiotics, in the form of eyedrops, pills, or ointment, are the recommended treatment for bacterial pinkeye. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections and there is no specific treatment. The viral infection typically lasts for four to seven days. Treatment of allergies can help improve symptoms of allergic pinkeye. Chemical pinkeye should be treated immediately by a doctor after washing the affected eye for five minutes.

Relieving Symptoms

A woman washes around her eye with a washcloth.

Cold or warm compresses applied to the eyes can help clear the discharge associated with viral or bacterial pinkeye. Use a different washcloth for each eye, and use clean washcloths each time you wash. Wiping from the inside to the outside of the eye area is the best way to clean the eyes.

How Long Is Pinkeye Contagious?

A doctor checks a young male patient's eye.

If symptoms have improved, you can usually go back to school or work 24 hours after starting antibiotics for bacterial pinkeye. Viral pinkeye is different, and you can spread the condition as long as you have symptoms. Your doctor can tell you when it is safe to return to work or school.

Pinkeye Prevention

A woman washes her hands with soap and water.

Always wash your hands well and frequently if you or your child has pinkeye, and try not to touch the eye area. Wash hands after applying medications to the eyes. To avoid spreading the infection, do not share towels or other products, change linens and towels daily, disinfect surfaces like countertops and doorknobs, and throw away tissues after each use. If you use makeup, throw away any makeup that you used on the eye area while infected.

Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment, Contagious, Remedies

Last reviewed by Dr.Mary on October 4th, 2018.

What exactly is Pink eye?

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is an infection or inflammation of the transparent membrane known as conjunctiva which lines part of the eyeball as well as the lining of the eyelid. Inflammation causes very small blood vessels in the conjunctiva to be more noticeable, and this is what causes the red or pink cast to the whites of the eye therefore the name pink eye.

The reason for the development of pink eye is usually a viral or bacterial infection, allergic reaction or especially in babies, a tear duct that is opened incompletely.

Although the inflammation of pink eye may be very irritating, it will rarely affect the actual vision of the eye. If an individual believes they might have pink eye, they need to take steps to ease the discomfort. But due to the fact that pink eye may be contagious, it is important for early diagnosis as well as treatment in order to help in limiting its spread.

Pink Eye Symptoms

Common symptoms of pink eye consist of:

  • Redness in both or only one eye
  • Gritty feeling in both or only one eye
  • Itchiness in both or only one eye
  • Discharge in both or only one eye that can form a crust during the night
  • Tearing

It is important to make an appointment with the eye specialist if an individual notices any symptoms or signs that are thought to be pink eye. Pink eye in some cases may be highly contagious for as much as 2 weeks after symptoms and signs begin. With an early diagnosis one can protect people around you from getting pink eye, get treatment in order to help cope with the symptoms as well as reduce any risk of complications.

Pink Eye Causes

Pink eye causes consist of:

  • Bacteria
  • Virus
  • Allergies
  • Foreign object in eye
  • Chemical splash in eye
  • Newborns, tear duct blocked
  • Most cases of pink eye are from virus

Bacterial and Viral pink eye

Bacterial pink eye as well as viral pink eye can affect both or only one eye. Viral conjunctivitis normally produces a discharge that is watery. Bacterial pink eye frequently creates a thick, green-yellow drainage. Both bacterial as well as viral pink eye may be linked with the common cold or with indications of an infection of the respiratory system, for instance a throat that is sore.

Both bacterial as well as viral infections are extremely contagious. Children and adults alike may have either of these kinds of conjunctivitis. But, bacterial pink eye is usually found in children more.

Allergic pink eye

This type of pink eye disturbs both eyes at the same time as well as being a reaction to some allergy triggering material such as pollen. When responding to allergens, the body produces antibodies referred to as immunoglobulin E or IgE. This then produces distinctive cells in the lining of the eyes as well as the airways referred to as mast cells which release elements that are inflammatory, including histamines. The bodys discharge of histamine may produce numerous allergy symptoms including pink or red eyes.

With allergic conjunctivitis, an individual can experience very intense itching, inflammation as well as watering of the eyes and nasal discharge that is watery with sneezing. Most allergic pink eye can be managed with over-the-counter eyedrops for allergies.

Pink eye caused by irritation

Irritation by some splash of a chemical or foreign type object in the eye is likewise linked with pink eye. Often cleaning and flushing the eye to rid it of the object or the chemical causes irritation as well as redness. Symptoms and signs which can include a mucous discharge and watery eyes normally get better by themselves within a day.

Pink eye risk factors consist of:

  • Being exposed to any individual with a bacterial or viral pink eye infection
  • Being exposed to any allergen that causes allergic pink eye
  • Wearing extended-wear contact lenses

In adults and children, pink eye can cause the cornea to become inflamed and that may affect vision in that eye. Rapid appraisal and immediate treatment can decrease any risk of difficulties.

Pink Eye Diagnosis

In order to determine what is wrong with the eye, the eye doctor will examine the eyes. He/she can also obtain a sample of secretions from the eye for analysis in the lab to diagnose what kind of infection the individual may have and what is needed for treatment.

Pink Eye Treatment

Treatment of bacterial pink eye

If the infection is caused by bacteria, the eye doctor can advise antibiotic eyedrops for the treatment of pink eye and this infection will normally be gone within a few days. Antibiotic ointment for the eye rather than eyedrops is often prescribed for the treatment of pink eye from bacteria in children. Ointments are usually easier to manage with young children or infants than are eyedrops, although the ointment can cause blurry vision for as long as 20 minutes after applying it. Using either type of drug will clear up symptoms and signs of pink eye with in a very few days. Always follow the doctors instructions and use these antibiotics until the total supply runs out in order to stop recurrence of the infection.

Treatment of viral pink eye

For viral pink eye there is no treatment. The virus only needs time to run its course which is up to 2 or 3 weeks. Viral pink eye normally starts in one eye and then the other eye becomes infected in several days. The symptoms and signs will normally clear up on its own.

Medications that are antiviral can be a decision when the physician concludes that the viral pink eye is from the herpes simplex virus.

Treatment for allergic pink eye

If the eye is irritated by allergic pink eye, the physician can prescribe one of many types of eyedrops on the market for individuals with allergies. These drops can include decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, and antihistamines, anti-inflammatory as well as steroid drops. The severity of the allergic pink eye symptoms can be reduced by avoiding the cause of the allergies when possible.

Home Remedies

In order to help manage the symptoms and signs of pink eye while waiting for it to get better, try this:

Applying an eye compress

Make this compress by soaking a lint-free clean cloth in water and squeeze it out. Then gently apply it over eyelids that are closed. A cool compress can aid in relieving allergic pink eye. If the individual is suffering with viral or bacterial pink eye, a warm compress may be preferred. If pink eye only affects one eye, do not touch both eyes with the exact same compress. This will reduce the chance of spreading the pink eye to the uninfected eye.


There are many over-the-counter eyedrops referred to as artificial tears which can help to relieve symptoms. Some of these eyedrops can contain antihistamines or other drugs that can help individuals with allergic pink eye.

Do not wear contacts

If you are a contact lens wearer, they may need to be stopped until the eyes are better. How long normally depends on what kind of pink eye you have. If you have disposable contacts, ask your doctor if the lenses as well as lens case and cleaning solution need to be thrown out. If you do not have disposable lenses, make sure the contacts are cleaned thoroughly before wearing them again.

Pink Eye Prevention

Use good hygiene in order to manage the spreading of pink eye. For example:

  • Do not touch the eyes with hands
  • Use clean washcloth and towel daily
  • Wash hands often
  • Do not share washcloths or towels
  • Throw away eye makeup, such as mascara often
  • Change pillowcases often
  • Do not share private eye-care articles or eye makeup

Even when symptoms of pink eye can get better in 3 or 4 days, children who have viral pink eye can be communicable for a week or even more. Children can go back to school when they no longer have symptoms of tearing or matting of the eyes.

If a child has bacterial pink eye, keep the child from school while treatment is being started. Many schools as well as child care centers require that the child wait as much as 24 hours once beginning treatment before going back to child care or school. Ask the physician if you have questions concerning your child returning to child care or school.

Preventing newborns from Pink eye

Newborns eyes are extremely prone to bacteria normally in the mothers birth canal. The bacterium triggers no symptoms in the mother. In some very rare cases, this bacterium may cause the infant to develop a very serious type of pink eye known as ophthalmia neonatorum, and needs treatment immediately to protect the eye sight. This is why that after delivery, an antibiotic ointment is normally applied to each newborns eyes. This ointment aids in preventing this infection.

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