The conjunctiva is the clear, thin tissue that lines the inside of your eyelid and covers the white of your eye. Conjunctivitis is inflammation (swelling and irritation) of your conjunctiva.
Infectious conjunctivitis is caused by infection with a variety of bacteria and viruses. It's often called pinkeye because your eyes turn pink or red.
Infectious conjunctivitis spreads easily from one eye to the other, as well as from person to person
It's usually caused by a virus
Viral conjunctivitis (caused by a virus) lasts 1 to 2 weeks and goes away on its own
If you have bacterial conjunctivitis, doctors will give you antibiotic eye drops
To avoid spreading conjunctivitis to others, wash your hands often and avoid sharing towels, washcloths, and bedding
Newborn babies can get infectious conjunctivitis if their mothers have chlamydia or gonorrhea. The infection is passed from the mother to the baby during birth. Babies can go blind if not treated and need to see a doctor right away.
Other things besides infections can cause conjunctivitis. For example, a speck of dirt, contact lens, or makeup can irritate and inflame the conjunctiva. Allergies sometimes cause allergic conjunctivitis.
Symptoms usually start in one eye and then spread to the other. Sometimes the infection comes on while you have a cold.
Typical symptoms include:
Sometimes, the liquid coming from your eyes is white or yellow like pus. It may be thick rather than watery. You might wake up with your eyes stuck shut. Washing your eyes with warm water gets them unstuck easily.
Sometimes you may also notice:
If it's caused by bacteria, it's likely that:
If the cause is viral:
If doctors think your infectious conjunctivitis might be caused by bacteria, they'll give you antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
For a newborn, doctors will:
To prevent conjunctivitis, doctors give newborn babies eye drops or ointment right after birth.
If you have infectious conjunctivitis, take these steps to keep from spreading it: