Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a common eye problem usually caused by an infection. It often gets better on its own without any special treatment, but if your eyes are causing problems it helps to figure out what is causing them and if you need to visit your doctor.

pink eye

What causes pink eye?

Pink eye is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection or allergies. It is a catch-all term for a variety of infections and irritations that can happen in the eye. Whilst direct contact between your eye and bacteria is a common cause, you can also develop pink eye if you are sick with a viral infection.

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

  • Red eyes. Red eyes are one of the tell-tale pink eye symptoms. The eye will look pink or light red where it would normally look white. This is different from, say, a broken blood vessel in your eye, which looks like a singular, deep red spot.
  • A gritty, itchy or burning sensation. Itchiness is a common symptom of pink eye, as is a gritty sensation that makes it feel like you have something in your eye. You may also experience a burning sensation.
  • Increased tear production. Pink eye often causes an increase in tear production, especially if it is caused by allergies. Other symptoms, such as crusting or discharge, can have the reverse effect and block tear glands.
  • Pus or mucus in your eyes could be a sign of pink eye. The consistency of the discharge can vary from thick and gunky to watery.
  • Crusting of eyelids and lashes. The discharge in your eyes can easily turn to crust on your eyelids and lashes, especially in the morning.

If you have one or more of these symptoms, you may have pink eye. If you do, don’t feel bad about it. Pink eye is very common and easy to get – affecting 6 million people annually in the United States. If you are experiencing these symptoms and want a confirmed diagnosis, your doctor will be able to tell you if you have pink eye.

How to treat pink eye

Now that you know you have pink eye, you’re probably wondering how to treat it. Whilst serious conjunctivitis, especially if it is causing a lot of discharge, swelling, and pain, can be treated with antibiotics, mild cases will go away on their own. Here are some tips for treating and soothing pink eye at home:

  • Boil water and let it cool (this removes bacteria). Then use a cotton pad to gently clean your eye to remove crusting and discharge. Do not overly rub or clean your eye as this will irritate it.
  • Hold a damp, cool flannel (not too cold) to your eye for a few minutes to soothe pain and swelling.
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses and makeup until the pink eye heals.

No one wants to get pink eye, but it can happen to anyone. Allergies, a bad cold, or a stray bit of bacteria in your eye can cause this common eye problem. Luckily, pink eye is rarely serious and will clear up on its own or with antibiotics relatively quickly.

This content is a joint venture between our publication and our partner. We do not endorse any product or service in the article.