Pink Eye

Boy with pink eye

​Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most common and treatable eye conditions. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. This inflammation makes blood vessels more visible and gives the eye a pink or reddish color.

Quiz

Key Facts

  • Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most common and treatable eye conditions.
  • Most cases of pink eye are mild and get better on their own without treatment.
  • Pink eye caused by allergens or irritants is not contagious, however it’s possible to develop a secondary pink eye infection caused by a virus or bacteria that is contagious.
  • Most hospitals are required by state law to put drops or ointment in a newborn’s eyes to prevent pink eye.

Media

Children in swimming pool
Causes of Pink Eye

The four main causes are viruses, bacteria, allergens (like pet dander or dust mites), and irritants (like smog or swimming pool chlorine) that infect or irritate the eye and eyelid lining. It can be difficult to determine the exact cause of pink eye because some signs and symptoms may be the same no matter the cause.

Young girl getting eye exam
When to See a Doctor

You should see a healthcare provider if, along with pink eye, you have moderate to severe pain in your eye(s), sensitivity to light or blurred vision, intense redness in the eye(s), a weakened immune system, symptoms that get worse or don’t improve, or a pre-existing eye condition that may put you at risk for complications or severe infection.

Soapy hands and faucet
Stop the Spread of Pink Eye

Wash your hands. Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. Avoid sharing makeup, contact lenses and containers, and eyeglasses.

Mother holding newborn
Pink Eye in Newborns

A newborn baby who has symptoms of pink eye should see a healthcare provider. Infection, irritation, or a blocked tear duct can cause pink eye in newborns. Neonatal pink eye caused by sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea or chlamydia, can be very serious.

Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    Wash hands especially well before and after cleaning, or applying eye drops or ointment, to your infected eye. You should also be sure to wash your hands after contact with an infected person, or items he or she uses. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
    This can worsen the condition or spread it to your other eye.
  • Avoid sharing makeup, contact lenses and containers, and eyeglasses. Do not share personal items, such as pillows, washcloths, towels, eye drops, makeup, contact lenses and containers, and eyeglasses.
Page last reviewed: September 8, 2021