Sometimes it just seems like it sneaked on you overnight. You wake up one morning and pink eye is there, staring at you from the mirror.

The term may sound somewhat whimsical and scary at the same time, but the good news is pink eye is the mildest and most common of the many eye infections out there. It is easily treatable, doesn’t affect your vision, and with a few tips, can be prevented in the future.

The bad news is pink eye is contagious. It spreads before you even realize you have it. Learn the symptoms and causes, when to seek treatment, a few home remedies, and how to prevent it.

Causes and Symptoms of Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the mucous transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and white part of the eyeball.

The lining of the eye should be clear unless you suffer from other infections. If irritation occurs, the lining turns red and swollen.

Although the conjunctiva is transparent, blood vessels layering the sclera of the eye are visibly affected by an infection. Inflamed and dilated blood vessels turn pink or red. This is how you spot the pink eye.

In most cases, pink eye is bacterial in nature. However, some conjunctivitis is viral, while another may come about as an allergic response.

Pink Eye Symptoms

The symptoms of pink eye may vary depending on the cause. One primary and constant sign though is that new pink color in your eyes.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

  • Redness or swelling of the white of the eye or inside the eyelids.
  • White, yellow or green eye discharge in the corner of the eye.
  • Crusting of the eyelids or lashes, especially in the morning when you wake up.

Viral conjunctivitis

  • Redness or swelling of the white of the eye or inside the eyelids.
  • Itchy, irritated, and burning eyes.
  • Increased light sensitivity.

Allergic conjunctivitis

  • Redness or swelling of the white of the eye or inside the eyelids.
  • Increased amount of tears.
  • Watery, burning and itchy eyes.
  • Stuffiness and a runny nose.
  • Gritty feeling in the eye.
  • Increased light sensitivity.

Causes of Pink Eye?

Pink eye

It can be difficult to determine the exact cause of pink eye. Signs and symptoms may be the same for different causes. These are the four main causes of conjunctivitis:

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Caused by certain types of bacteria, this form of pink eye is the leading cause of children being absent from school. It’s contagious, usually by direct contact and can lead to serious damage to the eye, such as corneal ulcer, if left untreated.

One or both eyes can be affected.

Viral Conjunctivitis

This type can be caused by a number of different viruses, such as adenoviruses or the common cold. One or both eyes can be affected. It is highly contagious, and can be spread by sneezing and coughing.

Also, viral conjunctivitis can sometimes result in large outbreaks.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic pink eye is the result of the body’s reaction to allergens – pollen from plants, grasses, trees, and weeds, dust mites, dander from pets, molds, or medicines.

This form is not contagious. It can occur seasonally when pollen counts are high, or in year-round flaps. If you’re prone to allergic reactions, such as eczema, fever, and asthma, you might be more susceptible to pink eye as well.

In some cases, allergic conjunctivitis may be the result of exposure to cosmetics or certain types of medication.

Conjunctivitis Caused by Irritants

This pink eye is not contagious. It mainly occurs among contact lens wearers, when contact lenses are worn too long or not maintained clean. Irritants causing conjunctivitis include chemicals, smoke, dust, or fumes.

Conditions associated with conjunctivitis include other eye infections, blepharitis, and dry eyes.

Treatment of Pink Eye

Pink eye

As you would expect, treatment of the pink eye depends on the underlying cause. In 65% of the cases, conjunctivitis resolves on its own, in two to five days.

Also, because pink eye can be highly contagious, it is recommended that you address both eyes even if only one of them is infected.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis also resolves without treatment. In some cases, your eye doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments.

Most people do use antibiotics to speed up the healing. Be careful to choose the right one for you.

Viral conjunctivitis

In most viral cases, there is no specific medical treatment. Just let pink eye run its course for several days. Antihistamines may be useful to help with the symptoms as do steroid eye drops.

Home remedies are recommended. Apply a cold, wet washcloth to the eyes several times a day to relieve the symptoms.

Allergic conjunctivitis

One thing to do at home is to pour cool water over your face with the head inclined downward. This constricts the capillaries and offers relief.

In more severe cases, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and antihistamines are in order.

Sometimes, preventing is healing. As this type of pink eye is the effect of seasonal allergens or dust flare-ups, allergy medications must be started before the season begins.

Home Remedies for Pink Eye


Countless studies have attested to honey’s beneficial properties. But how will this sweet treat cure your pink eye infection?

Honey carries antimicrobial agents that work against bacteria and fungi. Its use in healing the eye ranges from post-herpetic corneal opacities to local edema.

If the ancient Egyptians, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and the traditional healers of Mali credited honey with the ability to treat eye diseases, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try.

Home prescription: Dissolve one-quarter of a teaspoon of raw honey and optional salt in one-quarter of a cup of warm water (the water has to be either distilled or boiled for five minutes and then allowed to cool).

Using a clean dropper, pour 1 or 2 drops of the mixture in each eye every few hours, for as long as needed.

Herbal Tea

Calendula, fennel, chamomile, and eyebright teas might solve your pink eye problems.

Eyebright especially seems to be good for eye inflammation. It can be taken orally in either capsule or in a tea cup. While it brews, you could add a pinch of salt to the tea to increase its astringent properties.

Apply a warm cloth dipped in the tea to the irritated eye, or add 3 to 5 drops of eyebright tincture to one ounce of saline solution. Repeat this once or twice a day to soothe the inflammation.

Salt Water

These last ones are mainly comfort measures to soothe that pink eye itching sensation and the redness in the eye.

You can either pour some drops of simple sterile saline solution in your eyes or try other drops that also contain lubricants and other medications. Repeat several times a day for additional relief.

Pink Eye Prevention

Pink eye

The best cure is preventing the development of future infections in the eye. So what can you do to protect yourself and your children from pink eye?

  • The next precautionary measures should reduce some of the risk factors.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes too often and too much.
  • Don’t share personal items with others.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing.
  • Take care of your contact lenses. Keep them clean and part of your personal items. Don’t share them with other people. Remove them before showering to avoid trapping bacteria between your eyes and the lenses.
  • Wash your hands, especially when at school or in other public places. Encourage your child to do the same.
  • Use cod liver oil in your cooking recipes. It’s a great natural source of vitamin A.
  • Wear goggles when you swim in a pool. Bacteria and other microorganisms in the water that can cause conjunctivitis.
  • If you are pregnant and think you may have a sexually transmitted infection, check with your specialist. Newborn infants are particularly prone to conjunctivitis.
  • If you suffer from seasonal allergies, ask your doctor what are the preventive measures that can minimize your chances of getting pink eye during allergy season.
  • When facing wind, heat, or cold, wear eye protection to prevent irritations.

There’s never a break in the stream of patients with conjunctivitis, or pink eye. But follow these simple, preventive measures and you might avoid seeing through red, bloodshot eyes.

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