Conjunctivitis: What Is Pink Eye?

What Is Conjunctivitis?

pink eye

Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as “pink eye,” refers to an inflammation of the outermost layer of the white of the eye. It may also affect the inner eyelid. The name “pink eye” comes from the pink or reddish color that the eye appears to be when afflicted with conjunctivitis. This may occur in one or both eyes and can occur in conjunction with the common cold. Conjunctivitis is very common, affecting more than 3 million people every year in the US alone.


  • Common Cold
  • Irritants
    • Dirt
    • Shampoo
    • Soap
    • Eyedrops
  • Allergies
  • Fungi
  • Amoebas
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia
  • Bacterial infections



This type of conjunctivitis is caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold.


This type of conjunctivitis is caused by allergies or contact with an allergen.


This type of conjunctivitis is caused by bacterial infections or diseases like chlamydia.


This type of conjunctivitis occurs after contact with an irritant like shampoo.


  • Redness in the affected eye(s)
  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Foreign body sensation in the eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Discharge from eyes that is green or yellow in color
  • Severe discharge at night that makes opening of eyes difficult in the morning
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity



Your primary care physician can diagnose and treat conjunctivitis based on a physical exam and assessment of medical history. For severe or persistent cases, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist.


Treating conjunctivitis depends on the type that it is. Bacterial conjunctivitis is often treated with antibiotic eyedrops or ointments. Antihistamines can help treat cases of allergic conjunctivitis. Many cases of viral and chemical conjunctivitis resolve on their own with time.

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