This condition is more common in children.
Factors that may increase your risk of conjunctivitis include:
- Contact with a person who has conjunctivitis
- Sharing towels, linens, or other objects (even doorknobs) with an infected person
- Exposure to chemical or environmental irritants
- Contact lenses , especially if contacts are not cleaned and stored properly
- Seasonal allergies or contact with known allergens
- Red, watery eyes
- Swollen inner eyelids
- Scratchy feeling in the eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Pus-like or watery discharge
- Swelling of the eyelid
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.
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:
- Applying warm compresses
- Artificial tears (found in pharmacies)
Allergic or Chemical Irritation
Avoid the cause of the irritation. Apply cool compresses to the affected area. Eye drops may be prescribed to help relieve allergic conjunctivitis.
To Prevent Further Spread of Infection
If you have a bacterial or viral infection, follow these steps to prevent the spread of infection:
- Keep hands away from your face and do not rub your eyes.
- Change pillowcases and towels every night.
- Do not share pillows or towels.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Avoid shaking hands with others.
- Avoid swimming.
- Carefully clean away any discharge with warm water and clean cotton (or gauze) and immediately discard.
To decrease your chance of conjunctivitis:
- Do not share makeup or eye drops with anyone.
- Avoid sharing towels, washcloths, pillows, and handkerchiefs,
- Wash your hands frequently. Keep your hands away from your eyes.
- Clean contact lenses daily. Never sleep while wearing them unless advised to do so by your eye doctor.
- In case of allergic conjunctivitis, avoid the allergy causing substances and irritants.
Your doctor may recommend other prevention methods, depending on the cause.
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.
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a (Pink Eye)
American Optometric Association http://www.aoa.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
Canadian Ophthalmological Society http://www.cos-sco.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
Infectious conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116741/Infectious-conjunctivitis . Updated July 15, 2016. Accessed September 1, 2017.
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 November 21, 2015. Accessed September 1, 2017.