What Is Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)?

Conjunctivitis causes the white part of the eye to take on a reddish or pinkish color. It is highly contagious but rarely causes complications. Children get pink eye a lot since it spreads rapidly in daycare centers and schools.

Fortunately, pink eye is unlikely to damage vision, especially if treated quickly. When you take steps to prevent its spread and do everything your doctor recommends, it should clear up with no long-term issues.



Conjunctivitis is an eye infection that causes inflammation of the conjunctiva. The most common causes of pink eye are allergens, bacteria, and viruses. Other causes include contact lens wear, fungi, indoor and outdoor air pollution, chemicals, foreign objects in the eye, parasites, and amoeba. 

It is difficult to determine the exact cause of pink eye because some symptoms are similar regardless of the cause. Viral conjunctivitis is very infectious and can lead to large outbreaks. Bacterial conjunctivitis can also spread quickly but is more common in children than adults. 

Allergic conjunctivitis results from the body’s reaction to allergens and is not contagious. It is more common in people with other allergic conditions and can occur when allergens are high. However, it can also occur year-round due to indoor allergens like animal dander and dust mites.

Irritation from a foreign object in the eye or contact with chemicals, fumes, dust, or smoke can cause pink eye. Conjunctivitis caused by irritants is not contagious. It can occur when you fail to clean your contact lenses properly or wear them longer than recommended.



Common symptoms of pink eye include:


  • Red or pink eye

  • Discharge

  • Swelling of the eyelids and conjunctiva

  • Contact lenses that do not stay in place or feel uncomfortable

  • Increased tear production

  • Crusting of lashes or eyelids

  • Irritation, itching, or burning

  • An urge to rub the eye



As stated earlier, several bacteria and viruses can cause pink eye, some of which are very contagious. They can spread in different ways. These include close personal contact like shaking hands, contact with a surface or object with germs, or sneezing and coughing. 



Your doctor can determine whether an allergen, bacterium, or virus is causing the pink eye based on your symptoms, medical history, and an eye examination. This condition involves eye swelling or redness, but its symptoms can vary with the specific cause. 

However, making a firm diagnosis without laboratory testing is not always easy. Your doctor may take a sample of the eye discharge and send it to the lab to determine your infection type and the best treatment. 



It is not always necessary to seek medical treatment for pink eye. Artificial tears or a cold compress will relieve some of the dryness and inflammation. You can purchase these OTC without a prescription. If you use contact lenses, you should stop wearing them until the symptoms disappear and your doctor says it is okay to wear them again. 

You should seek medical treatment if you have pink eye along with any of the following:


  • Eye pain

  • Intense eye redness

  • Blurred vision or sensitivity to light even when discharge is wiped from the infected eye

  • Weakened immune system

  • Symptoms that worsen



Conjunctivitis usually is not serious and is highly preventable and treatable. Unless your condition is severe, it should heal on its own without treatment. However, it is best to take steps to avoid spreading it to others or getting a repeat case of pink eye.

For more on conjunctivitis, visit the Houston Dry Eye Clinic in Houston, Texas. Call (713) 664-4760 to schedule an appointment today.