Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the tissue that lines the surface of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Symptoms include red irritation of the membranes of the eye, tearing, and a gritty feeling in the eye. All types of conjunctivitis can cause discharge that causes the eyelids and lashes to stick together during sleep. This symptom can be upsetting, but is not medically worrisome in and of itself.
The most common cause of conjunctivitis is a viral infection. Viral conjunctivitis is caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold, and is usually transmitted by the individual touching their own eye with a hand that has become contaminated with virus from a surface such as doorknob or counter-top. Allergic conjunctivitis, caused by reaction to allergens such as pollen or animal dander, is also common. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by exposure to an irritant such as aerosolized droplets or small, wind-borne particles. Bacterial conjunctivitis is less common, and more likely to be a concern for people that wear contact lenses. A bacterial infection usually causes discharge of pus from the corner of the eye all through the day for more than one day. Self-treatment with antibiotic eye drops prior to medical evaluation is strongly discouraged.
- Avoid direct contact with others infected with colds or conjunctivitis.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, especially prior to touching your eyes or nose, because these areas are particularly vulnerable to attack by the viruses that cause colds.
- Avoid sharing towels or clothes without first washing them.
Pink eye usually clears up by itself within one week.
- Refrain from touching or rubbing your eyes.
- Apply warm or cool compresses several times a day
- Refrain from wearing contact lenses or eye makeup until the infection has completely cleared.
- Wash your hands frequently.
Seek medical attention for:
- Eye pain
- Discharge from the eyes during the day, especially if it lasts for more than a day
- Symptoms that worsen or don’t improve over several days