There are many causes, such as:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Allergens, such as seasonal allergies
  • Chemicals from things like air pollutants and chlorine

Risk Factors

The bacterial form is more common in children.

Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Spending time in crowded or close spaces
  • Contact with an infected person
  • Sharing towels, linens, or other items with an infected person
  • Having seasonal allergies or contact with known allergens
  • Being around chemical irritants
  • Wearing contact lenses



Symptoms are:

  • Teary eyes
  • Pink color in the white part of the eye
  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Itching or burning eyes
  • Pus-like discharge
  • Sensitivity to light

Sometimes symptoms start in one eye and infect the other eye.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. An eye exam will be done. Eye discharge may be checked for signs of infection.



Treatment will depend on the cause.


Most forms of conjunctivitis clear up with time. Some people may be given antibiotic eye drops or ointment to treat the bacterial form. Antibiotics cannot treat the viral form.

Artificial tears may be used. Some may have antihistamines in them to further ease symptoms. These are found at many stores.

Home Care

These methods may help ease problems:

  • Cold or warm compresses
  • Avoiding any causes of irritation
  • Not wearing contact lenses until problems are gone


To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water or sanitizer.
  • Do not share personal items with others.
  • Do not share makeup or eye drops with others.
  • Avoid allergens.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.