Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is redness and swelling of the conjunctiva,
the mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and eye surface. Pinkeye symptoms
usually start in one eye and may then spread to the other eye. The most common
type of pinkeye is caused by a virus and occurs most often in adults.
Viral pinkeye is often caused by an adenovirus, which is a common
respiratory virus that can also cause a sore throat or upper respiratory
infection. The herpes virus can also cause viral pinkeye.
Symptoms of viral pinkeye include:
- Redness in the white of the eye.
Swelling of the eyelids.
- Itching or burning feeling of the
- Swollen and tender areas in front of the
- A lot of tearing.
- Clear or slightly thick,
Viral pinkeye symptoms usually last 5 to 7 days but may last up to
3 weeks and can become ongoing or chronic.
An infection may develop when bacteria enter the eye or the area
around the eye. Some common infections that cause pinkeye include:
Symptoms of bacterial pinkeye include:
- Redness in the white of the
- Gray or yellow drainage from the eye. This drainage may cause
the eyelashes to stick together.
- Mild pain.
- Swelling of the upper eyelid, which may make the lid
appear to droop (pseudoptosis).
Bacterial pinkeye may cause more drainage than viral pinkeye.
Bacterial infections usually last 7 to 10 days without antibiotic treatment and
2 to 4 days with antibiotic treatment.
Treatment for pinkeye
If you have bacterial pinkeye:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
before and after touching your eyes.
- Use warm or cool compresses,
whichever feels better, to help relieve swelling and
- Change and wash towels and linens when they become soiled
- Do not wear contacts as long as you still have
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
November 2, 2011