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Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) is an infection of the eyes. It is most often caused by a virus but the cause can also be bacteria. Conjunctivitis is a mild illness and is not dangerous. Sometimes conjunctivitis is not caused by an infection but rather from an irritant.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?

The white parts of the eyes become pink or red. The eyes may hurt or feel itchy or scratchy, and may produce lots of tears and sticky drainage. In the morning, the drainage may make the eyelids stick together.

How is conjunctivitis spread?

The infection that causes some types of conjunctivitis spreads when infected drainage gets into someone else’s eye. This can happen when someone rubs their eyes, gets drainage on his hands and then touches someone or something else. If other people get this infected material on their hands and then touch their own eyes, they can become infected. Conjunctivitis spreads easily among young children because they often rub their eyes and then touch others without washing their hands.

Prevention

How is conjunctivitis treated?

Healthcare providers may prescribe an antibiotic eye medication in case the infection is due to bacteria.



What should you do if you have conjunctivitis?

  • Keep your eyes wiped and free of discharge.  Gently use paper tissues, and throw them away
  • Always thoroughly wash your hands after touching your eyes
  • Teach your children to wash their hands, especially after wiping their eyes
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you need to receive eye medication
  • Be sure to wash anything that touches the person’s eyes (such as washcloths, towels, toys and cameras).  Do not share towels, washcloths or other personal items

Treatment

How can you prevent conjunctivitis?

Good hand washing can protect you against conjunctivitis and many other diseases. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Because eye discharge on objects can remain contagious, do not share clothing and other personal items, including eye makeup applicators.

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