Symptoms and Signs of Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 8/3/2021

Doctor's Notes on Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis)

"Pinkeye" often refers to any condition that causes the whites of the eyes to appear pink or red. The most common cause of pinkeye is conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the layer of tissue overlying the white of the eye), and the two most common causes of conjunctivitis are infections and allergies.

In pinkeye (conjunctivitis) the whites of one or both eyes appear pink or red and eyes may be puffy. Eye discharge may stick to eyelashes and the eyelids may be red. Symptoms of infectious conjunctivitis may affect one of both eyes and can include blurred vision, eye pain, sensitivity to light (photophobia), watery eyes, or eye discharge (watery, mucus-like, or pus-like). Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal and usually affect both eyes and include eye itching and watery discharge.

What Is the Treatment for Pinkeye?

Treatment of pinkeye is dependent upon the cause. Bacterial infections are typically treated with medications, while viral pinkeye typically improves on its own without medications. Possible treatments include:

  • Antibiotic drops or ointment for bacterial infections
  • Oral antibiotics in less common cases of bacterial pinkeye
  • Antihistamines for allergic reactions
  • Antiviral medications for more serious viral infections

Home remedies to help relieve the symptoms of pink eye can include application of cool compresses and rinsing the eye with synthetic tear solutions.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.