Syracuse UniversityHealth Services

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Pink Eye

WHAT IS IT:  common eye condition causing inflammation/swelling of the conjunctiva (thin layer lining the inside of the eye and covers the white part of the eye).   It is caused by viruses, bacteria, allergens, or irritants. 

Viral:  virus caused by cold or sore throat, spreads easily but you can attend class, typically mild and clears in 7-14 days without treatment or long term effects

Bacterial:  caused by bacteria, typically mild and can last 2-3 days or up to 2-3 weeks.  Many cases improve in 2-5 days without treatment.  However, topical antibiotics can be prescribed. 

Allergic:  caused by body’s reaction to allergens (pollen from trees, plants, weeds, dust, molds, animal dander, contact lenses and solution or cosmetics).  Clears once irritant removed or treated with allergy medication.  Antihistamine eye drops or pills can alleviate symptoms.

SYMPTOMS

Pink or red color in the white of the eye(s)

Swelling of the conjunctiva

Increased tearing

Discharge of pus (yellow/green is common with bacterial conjunctivitis)

Itching/irritation/burning of eye(s)

Feeling something is in the eye(s) or an urge to rub the eye(s)

Crusting of eyelids or lashes

Possible symptoms of cold, flu or respiratory infection

Sensitivity to bright light

TREATMENT

Treatment is dependent upon cause of conjunctivitis. It is most commonly mild and will resolve on own WITHOUT treatment.  However, many times treatment may be necessary. Discontinue contact lens use during treatment and replace contacts after symptoms resolve. Wash your hands often and avoid touching eyes. Symptoms can be soothed by applying a warm or cool compress to closed eyes. Lubricant eye drops can increase comfort

WHEN TO SEEK CARE
Conjunctivitis with moderate to severe pain in the eye(s)

Conjunctivitis with vision problems, sensitivity to light, blurred vision that does not improve when discharge is wiped away

Conjunctivitis with intense redness in the eye(s)

Bacterial conjunctivitis being treated with antibiotic drops that does not improve after 24 hours

PREVENTION

Wash hands often with soap and warm water! For more information visit the CDC conjunctivitis fact sheet