Pink Eye

This article examines pink eye, its' various causes, symptoms, and when to seek medical treatment, as well as some helpful prevention techniques to help prevent you or your children from contracting pink eye.


Pinkeye is also known as conjunctivitis. It is characterized by redness and inflammation of the clear membranes covering the whites of the eyes.  It also affects the clear membranes in the inner part of the eyelids.  Small blood vessels in the eyes become inflamed which is what causes your eyes to appear pink.  A viral or bacterial infection causes the contagious forms of pink eye. Allergies, chemical agents and underlying diseases cause the non-contagious forms of pink eye.

Pink eye symptoms

The symptoms of pink eye often start in one eye before moving on to the other eye.  Itchiness of the eye can be intense and you should avoid touching your eye as much as possible. 

Another symptom of pink eye is a gritty feeling in the eyes, which can sometimes feel like something is in your eye.  Eye discharge can occur which can be clear, white, green or yellowish depending on the pink eye that you have.  Tearing and sensitivity to light are some other pink eye symptoms. 


Viral and bacterial

A virus causes most cases of pink eye.  Viral and Bacterial conjunctivitis often occur in tandem with other infections. They are the only cases where you run the risk of spreading it to other people through contact with the liquid that drains from the eyes.


When allergens such as pollen come into contact with your eyes this causes an allergic reaction.  In response, your body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin.  This causes a release of inflammation-causing chemicals in the body known as histamines. In turn, this produces red or pinkness in your eyes.


Getting some sort of irritant into the eye can also cause conjunctivitis.  The irritant can be a chemical, and depending on the chemical you may want to seek medical attention. 


Pink eye treatment includes the use of a compress, which is a washcloth soaked in cold or warm water.  Artificial tears can also be used to provide some relief.  Changing the washcloth out often when using a compress will avoid contamination.  The use of any type of eye drops can mimic tears to ease pink eye symptoms.  Pink eye remedies vary based on what caused your pink eye in the first place.

  •  Bacterial pink eye- requires the use of special doctor prescribed antibiotic eye drops, ointment or pills.
  • Viral pink eye- needs to run its course which can take anywhere from four to seven days.
  • Allergies- will often go away when you remove the source of the allergy.  Antihistamines can provide relief while symptoms persist.
  • Chemicals- If your eyes are exposed to chemicals wash them and seek immediate medical attention.  

Seek medical attention

When symptoms persist or worsen it is important to seek primary care assistance.  If pain in the eyes becomes sharp or unmanageable it could be due to a pre-existing eye condition.  The same goes for extreme sensitivity to light and intense redness. Special care should be taken when a weakened immune system is already present.

When an infant or newborn gets pink eye you should always see a doctor. This could be an indication of blocked tear ducts or a sexually transmitted disease contracted from birth.  If this is the case with your newborn it can be very serious and treatment should be sought immediately.


Practicing good hygiene once you have pink eye will prevent spreading.  This includes washing your hands often.  Changing pillowcases, bedding, washcloths, and towels will help prevent spreading as well.

Throw away any makeup brushes that you have used.  You also shouldn’t share any of these items with another individual.  Sharing of any personal care items when you have pink eye is discouraged.

Pink eye is no more contagious than the common cold so it's okay to return to work, school or childcare as long as you are practicing good hygiene.

You can also reduce your risk of pink eye by limiting risk factors. This includes exposure to things you are allergic to or to someone who has the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis.

At BASS Primary Care Walk-in Clinic, it's Your Health, Your Schedule.