Michelle Badash, MS
Conjunctivitis is swelling and irritation in the eye. It affects the tissue that covers the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid. This tissue is called the conjunctiva.
There are many causes of conjunctivitis including:
Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious.
This condition is more common in children.
Factors that may increase your risk of conjunctivitis include:
Conjunctivitis will usually clear up within 2-14 days. If conjunctivitis is caused by a seasonal allergy, it may continue throughout the season. If it is caused by a non-seasonal allergy, it may continue to occur year round.
These symptoms can sometimes indicate a more serious medical problem. If you develop these or any other symptoms, see your doctor.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. Your eyes will be examined. If there is discharge from your eye, it may be tested. The discharge will help find the cause of the conjunctivitis.
If you wear contacts, avoid wearing contact lenses until the conjunctivitis has cleared.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the conjunctivitis:
Antibiotic eye drops and/or ointment may be prescribed. These drops will help shorten the course of the infection. It will also decrease the amount of time it is contagious. Wipe away any discharge with a clean cotton ball before using the drops.
There is no medication to cure a viral infection. To help relieve discomfort consider:
Avoid the cause of the irritation. Apply cool compresses to the affected area. You may be prescribed eye drops to help relieve allergic conjunctivitis.
If you have a bacterial or viral infection, follow these steps to prevent the spread of infection:
To decrease your chance of conjunctivitis:
Your doctor may recommend other prevention methods, depending on the cause.
American Optometric Association
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Infectious conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116741/Infectious-conjunctivitis. Updated July 15, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at:
http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/eyes/Pages/PinkEye-Conjunctivitis.aspx. Updated September 2, 2014. Accessed September 15, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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