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Signs & Symptoms

It can be hard to determine the exact cause of every case of conjunctivitis. This is because some signs and symptoms of the condition may be similar depending on the cause.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis can include

  • Pink or red color in the white of the eye(s) (often one eye for bacterial and often both eyes for viral or allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Swelling of the conjunctiva (the thin layer that lines the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid) and/or eyelids
  • Increased tearing
  • Discharge of pus, especially yellow-green (more common in bacterial conjunctivitis)
  • Itching, irritation, and/or burning
  • Feeling like a foreign body is in the eye(s) or an urge to rub the eye(s)
  • Crusting of eyelids or lashes sometimes occurs, especially in the morning
  • Symptoms of a cold, flu, or other respiratory infection may also be present
  • Sensitivity to bright light sometimes occurs
  • Enlargement and/or tenderness, in some cases, of the lymph node in front of the ear. This enlargement may feel like a small lump when touched. (Lymph nodes act as filters in the body, collecting and destroying viruses and bacteria.)
  • Symptoms of allergy, such as an itchy nose, sneezing, a scratchy throat, or asthma may be present in cases of allergic conjunctivitis
  • Contact lenses that do not stay in place on the eye and/or feel uncomfortable due to bumps that may form under the eyelid

Sometimes there are situations that can help your healthcare provider determine what is causing the conjunctivitis. For example, if a person with allergies develops conjunctivitis when the pollen count increases in the spring, this would be a sign that he or she might have allergic conjunctivitis. And if someone develops conjunctivitis during an outbreak of viral conjunctivitis, this would be a sign that he or she might have viral conjunctivitis.

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