Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is redness and inflammation of the membrane or conjunctiva which covers the whites of the eyes and the membranes of the inner part of the eyelids. Viral and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are common in childhood, but they can occur in people of any age.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria, irritating substances (shampoo, dirt, smoke, and especially pool chlorine), allergens
(substances that cause allergies) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Pink eye caused by bacteria, viruses, and STDs can spread easily from person to person, but is not a serious health risk if diagnosed promptly.
In classics presentations, you might complain of having one or two eyes that are red or pink. You may describe itching and burning or a gritty foreign-body sensation along with having your eyelids sticking together upon waking. Pus sliding across the eye may distort vision, though visual acuity is normal. Pain may be minimal to none. Family members with similar complaints typically present with conjunctivitis from an infectious cause. A history of a recent upper respiratory infection (URI) typically is usually associated with a viral cause.
Conjunctivitis treatment options vary, often depending on whether your conjunctivitis is caused by a virus, bacteria, an allergic condition, or some other cause. Antibiotic eye ointments or drops may help bacterial forms of conjunctivitis, but usually don't work for viral forms. Cases of pink eye that care caused by bacteria and viruses tend to be contagious. (Conjunctivitis caused by allergies or environmental irritants are not.)
A child can get pink eye by touching an infected person or something an infected person has touched, such as used tissue. In the summertime, pink eye can spread when kids swim in contaminated water or share contaminated towels. It also can be spread through coughing and sneezing. Doctors usually recommend keepings kids diagnosed with contagious conjunctivitis out of school, day care, or summer cap for a short time.
These tips for contact lens wearers also may help prevent pink eye or reduce the chance of re-infection if you have already had conjunctivitis: