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 (or swelling) 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 red color.


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. Cold compresses and artificial tears can help relieve inflammation and dryness caused by pink eye.
  • 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, both of which are very contagious.
  • Most hospitals are required by state law to put drops or ointment in a newborn’s eyes to prevent pink eye.


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. A doctor can usually diagnose the cause of pink eye based on symptoms and patient history. However, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of pink eye because some signs and symptoms can be the same no matter the cause.

Young girl getting eye exam
When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor if, along with pink eye, you have 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

Viral and bacterial pink eye are very contagious. You can protect yourself and others from pink eye by washing your hands, not touching or rubbing your eyes, and not sharing personal items.

Mother holding newborn
Pink Eye in Newborns

A newborn baby who has symptoms of pink eye should see a doctor right away. Infection, irritation, or a blocked tear duct can cause pink eye in newborns. Pink eye in newborns caused by 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 thoroughly especially before and after cleaning or when applying eye drops or ointment to your infected eye, and after touching someone with pink eye or items they use. 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 with unwashed hands.
    This can worsen the condition or spread it to your other eye.
  • Do not use the same eye products for your infected and non-infected eyes. Additionally, stop wearing contact lenses until your eye doctor says it’s okay to start wearing them again.
  • Do not share personal items. Personal items can include pillows, washcloths, towels, eye drops, makeup, makeup brushes, contact lenses and storage cases, and eyeglasses.
  • If you have pink eye, do not use swimming pools.