Pinkeye is a highly contagious eye infection. Though not necessarily dangerous,
pinkeye can be irritating and sometimes painful. Coming in contact with
someone who has untreated pinkeye can put others at risk for this downright
unpleasant eye infection. Children are especially susceptible to contracting
pinkeye from a friend or classmate.
Also known as conjunctivitis, pinkeye is inflammation and infection affecting
the conjunctiva (the transparent membrane), which lines the eyelid and
covers the whites of the eyes. Tiny blood vessels in the eye become inflamed,
making them more visible, and the eye appears pink or red, hence the name
Types of pinkeye
Pinkeye can be either viral or bacterial. Both are very contagious.
Viral pinkeye is commonly caused by an adenovirus, a common respiratory virus that also
causes sore throat and/or upper respiratory infection. The herpes virus
can also cause viral pinkeye.
Bacterial pinkeye is caused by bacteria that enter the eye or the area around the eye. Common
bacterial infections that can cause pinkeye include: staph, gonorrhea,
cat-scratch disease and haemophilus influenzae type b.
Symptoms of pinkeye
Symptoms of pinkeye vary slightly depending on whether the infection is
viral or bacterial.
Symptoms of viral pinkeye include:
- Itchy or burning sensation in the eye
- Excessive tearing
- Swelling or tenderness in front of the ears
- A clear, slightly thick or white-colored discharge
The symptoms of viral pinkeye often last five to seven days, but they can
Symptoms of bacterial pinkeye include:
- Gray or yellow drainage from the eye
- Swelling of the upper eyelid
- Drooping eyelid
The symptoms of bacterial pinkeye often last seven to 10 days without antibiotics,
or two to four days with antibiotics.
Treatment for pinkeye
As is the case with most viruses, viral pinkeye must run its course, which
could last up to two or three weeks, with symptoms gradually clearing
on their own. If the known cause of viral pinkeye is the herpes virus,
antiviral medication may be prescribed to help aid healing.
Bacterial pinkeye can be treated with antibiotic eye ointment or eye drops,
and symptoms should improve within a few days. Any prescribed antibacterial
ointment or eye drops should be used until they are gone to prevent the
Pinkeye is generally considered contagious as long as the eye is producing
discharge. Bacterial pinkeye may no longer be considered contagious after
24 hours of application of antibacterial eye drops or eye ointment.
Good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding touching the eyes
and using clean towels and washcloths, can help prevent the spread of
pinkeye. If you have pinkeye, you should also throw away any eye cosmetics,