Learn About Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

What is the definition of Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

The conjunctiva is a clear layer of tissue lining the eyelids and covering the white of the eye. Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva becomes swollen or inflamed.

This swelling can be due to an infection, an irritant, dry eyes, or an allergy.

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What are the alternative names for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Inflammation - conjunctiva; Pink eye; Chemical conjunctivitis, Pinkeye; Pink-eye; Allergic conjunctivitis

What are the causes of Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Tears most often protect the eyes by washing away the germs and irritants. Tears contain proteins and antibodies that kill germs. If your eyes are dry, germs and irritants are more likely to cause problems.

Conjunctivitis is most often caused by germs such as viruses and bacteria.

  • "Pink eye" most often refers to a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily among children.
  • Conjunctivitis can be found in people with COVID-19 before they have other typical symptoms.
  • In newborns, an eye infection may be caused by bacteria in the birth canal. This must be treated at once to preserve eyesight.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva becomes inflamed due to a reaction to pollen, dander, mold, or other allergy-causing substances.

A type of long-term allergic conjunctivitis may occur in people who have chronic allergies or asthma. This condition is called vernal conjunctivitis. It most commonly occurs in young men and boys in the spring and summer months. A similar condition can occur in long-time contact lens wearers. It may make it difficult to continue to wear contact lenses.

Anything which irritates the eye may cause conjunctivitis also. These include:

  • Chemicals.
  • Smoke.
  • Dust.
  • Over-use of contact lenses (often extended-wear lenses) can lead to conjunctivitus.
What are the symptoms of Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Crusts that form on the eyelid overnight (most often caused by bacteria)
  • Eye pain
  • Gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Increased tearing
  • Itching of the eye
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
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What are the current treatments for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Treatment of conjunctivitis depends on the cause.

Allergic conjunctivitis may improve when allergies are treated. It may go away on its own when you avoid your allergy triggers. Cool compresses may help soothe allergic conjunctivitis. Eye drops in the form of antihistamines for the eye or drops containing steroids, may be necessary in more severe cases.

Antibiotic medicines work well to treat conjunctivitis caused by bacteria. These are most often given in the form of eye drops. Viral conjunctivitis will go away on its own without antibiotics. Mild steroid eye drops may help ease discomfort.

If your eyes are dry, if may help to use artificial tears in conjunction with any other drops you may be using. Be sure to allow about 10 minutes in between using different types of eye drops. Crustiness of the eyelids can be helped by applying warm compresses. Gently press clean cloth soaked in warm water to your closed eyes.

Other helpful steps include:

  • DO NOT smoke and avoid secondhand smoke, direct wind, and air conditioning.
  • Use a humidifier, especially in the winter.
  • Limit medicines that may dry you out and worsen your symptoms.
  • Clean eyelashes regularly and apply warm compresses.
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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

The outcome for bacterial infections is most often good with early antibiotic treatment. Pinkeye (viral conjunctivitis) can easily spread through entire households or classrooms.

When should I contact a medical professional for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Contact your provider if:

  • Your symptoms last longer than 3 or 4 days.
  • Your vision is affected.
  • You have light sensitivity.
  • You develop eye pain that is severe or becoming worse.
  • Your eyelids or the skin around your eyes becomes swollen or red.
  • You have a headache in addition to your other symptom.
How do I prevent Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Good hygiene can help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis. Things you can do include:

  • Change pillowcases often.
  • DO NOT share eye makeup and replace it regularly.
  • DO NOT share towels or handkerchiefs.
  • Handle and clean contact lenses properly.
  • Keep hands away from the eye.
  • Wash your hands often.
What are the latest Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) Clinical Trials?
Corneal Thickness Changes in Patient Undergoing Dry Eye Managment

Summary: The purpose of this research is to the determine effect of dry eye and to compare the effect of artificial tears on central and peripheral corneal thickness.

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Effects of CEQUA™ on Objective and Subjective Dry Eye Findings Associated With Sjogren's Syndrome

Summary: The primary objective of this study is to show that CEQUA (cyclosporine 0.09% ophthalmic solution) improves symptoms of dry eye disease in a population of patients with Sjogren's Syndrome diagnosis.

What are the Latest Advances for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?
Neonatal Conjunctivitis.
The efficacy and safety of IL-13 inhibitors in atopic dermatitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
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A Case of Reactive Arthritis after BCG Intravesical Infusion Therapy Successfully Treated with Salazosulfapyridine.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: August 18, 2020
Published By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Conjunctivitis (pink eye): prevention. www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/prevention.html. Updated January 4, 2019. Accessed September 17, 2020.

Dupre AA, Wightman JM. Red and painful eye. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 19.

Holtz KK, Townsend KR, Furst JW, et al. An assessment of the adenoplus point-of-care test for diagnosing adenoviral conjunctivitis and its effect on antibiotic stewardship. Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2017;1(2):170-175. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30225413/.

Khavandi S, Tabibzadeh E, Naderan M, Shoar S. Corona virus disease-19 (COVID-19) presenting as conjunctivitis: atypically high-risk during a pandemic. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2020;43(3):211-212. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32354654/.

Kumar NM, Barnes SD, Pavan-Langston D. Azar DT. Microbial conjunctivitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 112.

Rubenstein JB, Spektor T. Conjunctivitis: infectious and noninfectious. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.6.