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What is Pink eye?

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Pink eye or conjunctivitis  is an inflammation of the thin clear covering of the white of the eye and under the eyelids called the conjunctiva.  

Symptoms of Pink Eye

watery eyes

swollen eyelids

light sensitivity


Itching or burning


What cause Pink eye?Bacterial conjunctivitis – thick, yellowish-greenish discharge in the corners of the eyes.  Often causes eyelids to be stuck together in the mornings.  One or both eyes are affected and contagious.  Can be spread from touching eyes.  

Viral conjunctivitis –  watery, light sensitive eyes, and extremely contagious with one or both eyes affected.  This is spread by sneezing or coughing.  Often people have been sick or have a cold.  

Allergic conjunctivitis –  burning, itching, and watery eyes.  Can present with white discharge which can be stringy or ropy.  Both eyes are usually affected and is not contagious.  


Bacterial conjunctivitis – a short course of antibiotic eyedrops or ointments are prescribed by your eye doctor. Usually resolves in a few days to a week. 

Viral conjunctivitis – typically will improve on it’s own in 7-14 days.  It is recommended that children be dismissed from school a few days to prevent spread of infection.  Anti-inflammatory drops can be prescribed by your eye doctor to reduce  symptoms.  

Allergic conjunctivitis – over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops can be used to reduce symptoms of itching and burning in the eyes.  If these symptoms persist your eye doctor can prescribe eye allergy drops and oral medication.  

How can you prevent pink eye?

  1. Don’t share towels and hand clothes with others.
  2. Don’t wear your friend’s colored contact lenses. 
  3. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and do not rub your eyes. 
  4. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. 
  5. Keep countertops, shared office phones, and faucet handles clean.   
  6. Make sure you regularly dispose your contacts as directed ( i.e. 1 day, 2 week, etc.) and do not swim with them in without goggles. 
  7. If you have allergies, be prepared to have eye allergy drops handy when allergy season comes around. 


Written by Dr. Michael Duong

Dr. Duong received his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry at San Jose State University. He then attended Pennsylvania College of Optometry and received his Doctor of Optometry in 2009.
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