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Pink Eye - Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Pink Eye - Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Pink eye, otherwise called conjunctivitis, is a temporary eye infection and is not a serious health issue. Read the article further to know about its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Written by

Dr. Lochana .k

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Prashant Koranmath

Published At May 30, 2020
Reviewed AtAugust 2, 2023

What Is Pink Eye?

Pink eye is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane of the eye. It is also known as conjunctivitis. It is highly contagious and can spread through direct contact with eye secretions. When the small blood vessels in the conjunctiva get infected and inflamed, the eye appears red or pinkish.

This infection is commonly caused by bacteria, viruses, allergic reactions, or an incompletely opened tear duct in babies. Conjunctivitis rarely causes vision problems. Eye discomfort and other symptoms can be treated with the help of medicines. As it is a highly contagious condition, early diagnosis, and treatment are a must.

What Causes Pink Eye?

  • Viral and bacterial infection.

  • Fungi, amoeba, and other parasites.

  • Irritants like shampoo and smoke.

  • Gonorrhea can sometimes be the reason.

  • Allergic reactions to pollen grains, contact lenses, and chlorine added to swimming pools.

Sometimes conjunctivitis can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Gonorrhea can be considered as a rare but dangerous form of bacterial conjunctivitis. It can also lead to vision loss if it does not get treated on time. Chlamydia can also cause conjunctivitis in adults. If a person is affected with chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other bacteria in the body when they give birth, they can pass the disease of pink eye to the baby through the umbilical cord.

Pink eye caused by certain bacteria and viruses can spread easily and rapidly from person to person, but it is not a serious health risk if diagnosed initially. If it happens in a newborn baby, inform the health care professional immediately, as it might be an infection that can cause permanent damage to the baby’s vision.

What Are the Types of Pink Eye?

  • Infectious Conjunctivitis - It is caused by a complete parasitic infection and is highly contagious.

  • Non-infectious Conjunctivitis - It is not caused by bacteria or viruses. An abnormal response of the immune system to foreign antigens is the cause.

What Are the Symptoms of Pink Eye?

Either one or both eyes may be affected.

  • Redness and pain.

  • Itching sensation.

  • Eyes may be watering a lot.

  • Sensitivity to eyes.

  • Discharge from the eyes which may be yellow or white.

  • Crusting of eyelids and eyelashes.

  • Running nose.

  • Earache, ear infection, and ear discharge.

  • Frequently blinking an eye.

  • Puffy eyelids.

  • Enlargement of the lymph node.

What Is a Bacterial Pink Eye?

Bacterial pink eye is caused by bacteria that spreads to the eyes from the skin and respiratory system. It begins as an ear infection or respiratory infection. It can affect one or both eyes. Antibiotic eye drops or topical application of antibiotic ointments will help. Perform the same under proper guidance from a doctor.

What Is a Viral Pink Eye?

Viral pink eye is caused mostly by Herpes simplex virus or varicella-zoster virus. It can affect one or both eyes. It begins with a running nose and a cold. It produces a watery discharge. Heals well with anti-viral drugs.

How Is the Pink Eye Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose pink eye by questioning the patient about the symptoms and other related health histories. If the symptoms are severe, culture tests performed in the laboratory might be required.

What Is the Treatment of Pink Eye?

The treatment options for pink eye are:

  • Give a warm compress or cold compress to the eye. A clean and hygienic cloth should be used for this purpose.

  • It does not alter the clarity of vision. So do not panic.

  • Over-the-counter medication eye drops, such as antihistamine and anti-inflammatory, can be prescribed.

  • People who have bacterial pink eye might notice a thick discharge, or pus, leaking from the eye that it is affecting. Pus might dry quickly, forming a crust along the edges of the eyelids. People may have difficulty opening their eyes, especially in the morning. Use a warm, damp cloth to remove pus from around the eye and lashes.

Pink Eye in Toddlers:

Pink eye is very common among toddlers because they are highly prone to infection as they have the habit of playing on the ground. The immunity of the kids would not have been properly developed, and that is how they are easily affected. The irritants such as sand or chemical substances, cause pink eye in the toddlers. It usually resolves by itself and does not require any specific treatment. It heals within five to ten days. If there is continuous pain or irritation, a mild dose of antibiotics can be given. Pink eye due to viral infection lasts longer up to fourteen days. If a toddler is affected, then they should be allowed to stay at home, as it might infect the other kids. Educate the child to wash the eyes with a clean and dry cloth. Using artificial tears can give the child temporary relief.

What Are the Ways to Prevent Pink Eye?

  • Do not be around someone who already has pink eye.

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after using washrooms.

  • Do not share personal towels, pillows, and soaps.

  • Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing.

  • Wear goggles when swimming.

  • The spread of infection happens through direct hand-to-eye contact. Avoid direct contact with the infected site. Avoid giving handshakes to infected people.

  • Indirect contact with objects contaminated by the infected person should be avoided.

  • Remove contact lenses before taking a shower.

  • Do not rub the eyes while a person has to place a contact lens in them.

  • Avoid sharing make-up kits and mascara.


Pink eye is typically not a serious problem. If there is no pain, then one can wait for a day for the redness to subside. If there is continuous redness, pain, and swelling, a person might need help from a doctor. Call a doctor online for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Is Pink Eye Treated?

Give the eye a warm compress or a cold compress. This should be done with a clean, hygienic cloth. Antihistamines and anti-inflammatory eye drops are examples of over-the-counter medicines that can be prescribed. The doctor might recommend an antibiotic for bacterial conjunctivitis, typically applied topically as eye drops or ointment. Antibiotics may shorten the duration of infection, lessen complications, and stop the spread of the infection to other people.


Is Pink Eye a Serious Condition?

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is a temporary eye infection. It is typically not a serious condition, despite being very contagious. Most mild to moderate cases of pink eye resolve on their own without medical intervention. If pink eye is severe, treatment is frequently required. It can shorten the duration of the symptoms and spread the disease to others.


How Is Pink Eye Spread From Person to Person?

Pink eye is a temporary eye infection but is highly contagious. Direct or indirect contact with the discharge from an infected person's eye can spread the disease. When in close contact, such as touching or shaking hands with another person, bacteria and viruses pass from one person's hand to the other, then they touch their eye.


What Is the Recommended Antibiotic for Pink Eye?

- Ciprofloxacin. Topical solutions or ointments are available for this antibiotic.
- Tobramycin. Tobramycin dosage guidelines typically advise using the eye drops every four hours for five to seven days.
- Erythromycin: A thin strip of erythromycin, an antibiotic ointment, is applied to the eyelid.
- Ofloxacin is an antibiotic eye drop that should be applied to the troubled eye four or more times daily.


What Are the Signs of Pink Eye?

It is characterized by itchiness, redness, and a gritty sensation in the eye. During the night, a discharge frequently hardens into a crust on the eyelashes. An inflammation or infection of the clear membrane (conjunctiva), which lines the eyelid and covers the white portion of the eyeball, causes pink eye (conjunctivitis).


How Long Does Pink Eye Stay?

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a temporary eye infection. In most cases, the infection will go away on its own in seven to 14 days without any long-term effects or treatment. Viral conjunctivitis, however, can occasionally take two to three weeks or longer to go away.


How Can I Identify Bacterial and Viral Conjunctivitis?

Bacterial conjunctivitis typically results in a yellow or green, sticky discharge. The eyelids may swell, and they will feel scratchy. The typical symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are a watery discharge during the day and a sticky discharge in the morning. The eyelids could swell up significantly.


Can Stress Cause Pink Eye?

Pink eye is not a result of stress, but the herpes virus, which resides dormant in a person's body and can become active when they experience stress, is one cause of viral conjunctivitis. This may result in eye infections like pink eye, skin rashes, or cold sores on the lips.


Can Pink Eye Be a Symptom of an STD?

The same kinds of bacteria that cause chlamydia and gonorrhea, two sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), can also cause conjunctivitis. The infection can spread to the eye if a person touches the genitalia of an infected person and then rubs their own eye or touches a contact lens.


Can Covid Lead To Viral Conjunctivitis?

Pink eye, an eye infection, can also very rarely result from COVID. According to some reports, COVID-19 only manifested itself as conjunctivitis. According to other reports, COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized later in the course of their illness experienced conjunctivitis.
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Dr. Prashant Koranmath
Dr. Prashant Koranmath

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)


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