What is a Pink Eye or Conjunctivitis?

Pink eye, known medically as conjunctivitis, is essentially a condition where the conjunctiva in your eye is inflamed. The conjunctiva is a transparent membrane that covers the front of your eyes and the insides of your eyelids. Since small blood vessels in the membrane become inflamed, the eye appears pink, leading to this name.  Pink eye is a fairly common condition in India. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or general allergies. In case you suspect you have conjunctivitis, visit a doctor for the appropriate treatment. Learn more about the symptoms, causes, treatment procedures and home remedies for pink eye in this article.

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People often suffer from pink-eye or conjunctivitis infection. It is caused due to an inflammation of the conjunctiva that is a thin clear tissue lying over the white section of the eye. It protects the eye and the veins inside of the eyelid. Conjunctivitis is quite common in children and is a highly contagious infection. However, it rarely gets severe and is unlikely to cause damage to the vision.  

When the infection is treated immediately and preventive measures are followed, you can recover from pink-eye with no long-term issues. Before we learn the symptoms of the infections, let us understand the types of conjunctivitis.

1. Viral Strains:

It is the most common type of pink eye that is highly contagious. It usually begins from one eye, causing a watery discharge. If not treated immediately, it can spread to the other eyes in a few days. Besides the obvious pink eye, you will observe swollen lymph nodes in front of your ear or under the jawbone.

2. Bacterial Strains:

It usually infects one eye but can spread to another. The infected eye will produce a lot of pus and mucus.

3. Allergic Types:

It causes tearing, itching, and redness in both eyes. Some people also suffer from a runny or itchy nose.

4. Ophthalmia Neonatorum:

It is a severe type of conjunctivitis that mainly affects newborns. It is caused by a bacterial infection and needs immediate medical treatment. If treatment is not provided on time, it can cause permanent damage to the infected eye or blindness in extreme cases.

Now that you have a brief overview of the infection, let us study conjunctivitis causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. We will begin by understanding its symptoms.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

If you are suffering from a pink eye infection, the following symptoms will be prominent.

  • Redness and irritation in the infected eye

  • Watery discharge as the tear glands become overactive

  • A sticky or crusty coating on the eyelashes, especially when you wake up

  • Soreness in the eye, which feels like there is sand in the eye

  • Swelling due to increased inflammation or constant rubbing

  • Burning or itching sensation

  • Constant discomfort if you wear contact lenses

When these symptoms arise, know that immediate care should be taken before the infection spreads to the other eye. If conjunctivitis is due to outside irritants such as dust, it usually affects both eyes at the same time.

Besides, depending on the cause of the infection, the patient can experience other flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Aching limbs

  • Sore throat

These symptoms could also be considered as early signs of the infection. When it comes to babies or newborns, parents should lookout for the following:

  • Red, tender and puffy eyelids

In case the redness or puffiness of eyelids is apparent, ensure the child gets appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible. This helps prevent the spread of the infection and further complications.

Cause of Conjunctivitis

Some of the common causes of conjunctivitis are allergies and viral or bacterial infection. Over 80% of pink-eye cases are due to viral infections such as:

  • Adenoviruses

  • Herpes virus

  • Enteroviruses

Whereas, bacterial infections leading to conjunctivitis include:

  • Staphylococcus aureus

  • Streptococcus pneumonia

  • Haemophilus influenzae

Causes of Conjunctivitis in Babies

The pink eye infection in babies is caused due to infection, irritation of blockage in the tear duct. All these causes have similar symptoms. On the other hand, the virus or bacteria causing conjunctivitis can be transmitted to the newborn at the time of delivery, even if the person giving birth does not have any apparent symptoms.

The Neisseria Gonorrhoeae that causes Gonorrhoea is the most common bacterial cause of infection in babies. Besides, the virus Chlamydia Trachomatis that leads to genital herpes can cause conjunctivitis in newborns. However, it is rarely possible.

Moreover, the symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis due to C. Trachomatis appear after 5-12 days of delivery. In case the bacterial infection is due to N. Gonorrhoeae, the symptoms usually appear after 2-4 days.

Pink eye infection in babies can also be a reaction caused due to eye drops given at birth to prevent the said infection. However, in this case, the child recovers in 24-36 hours.

Other Causes of Conjunctivitis

There could be several other reasons for pink eye, which includes:

  • Blepharitis

  • Acute glaucoma

  • Keratitis

  • Iritis

The possibility of these conditions leading to loss of vision cannot be denied. Anyone experiencing these infections needs to get immediate treatment.

Is it contagious? Conjunctivitis caused due to infections can be highly contagious. The infected person can pass it on to others via:

  • Personal contact

  • Droplets in the air due to coughs and sneezes

  • Touching infected items

The infected individual should stay home until the symptoms reduce.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Medical attention for the pink eye infection is needed when:

  • There is severe pain in the infected eye

  • Vision changes

  • The eye is sensitive to light

  • One or both eyes are dark red

  • There is another injury to the eye, or something is stuck in the eye

  • The infected person has severe headaches and fever

These symptoms are most likely to cause other health concerns and should be treated immediately.

Diagnosis of Conjunctivitis

Your doctor will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing due to the infection. He/she can use a cotton swab to collect the fluid from your eyelids for further testing. This helps in finding the bacteria or viruses causing conjunctivitis. Based on the test results, the doctor will prescribe you the right medication.

Besides, you can ask your doctor a few questions such as -

  • Is my infection contagious?

  • If yes, how can I prevent its spread?

  • Do I need to stay home until recovery?

Treatment for Conjunctivitis

The treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the type of infection.

1. In the case of Viruses:

This type of infection is usually due to viruses that cause a common cold. Much like the common cold, this infection lasts for 4-7 days. However, it is very contagious, and you need to ensure it does not spread to the other eye or people.

2. In the case of Bacteria:

Here, the doctors will suggest a few antibiotics in the form of eye drops, ointments, or pills. The eye drops or ointments need to be applied 3-4 times a day for 5-7 days. In the case of pills, the course can be for a week. Ensure that you are using these medications as directed by the doctor.

3. In the case of Irritants:

You can use water to wash the irritants from your eye. Once this is done, your eye will begin to improve within 4 hours. If conjunctivitis is caused due to acid or alkaline substances such as bleach, rinse your eyes thoroughly with a lot of water and get medical help immediately.

4. In the case of Allergies:

When conjunctivitis is associated with allergies, the infection gets better once the allergy trigger is avoided altogether. You can consult a doctor for the same to recover faster.

Home Remedies for Conjunctivitis

You can do many things at home to relieve the symptoms of the pink eye infection. These are as follows:

  • Keep your eyes clean:

The infected eye is bound to have a watery discharge during the day. Clean the same with a fresh cotton ball or paper towel. Ensure that you discard these items and wash your hands before touching anything else.

  • Wash your pillowcase regularly:

At least until the infection recovers, change/wash your bed linens, pillowcases, and towels every day with water and detergent. Also, keep these items separate from others to avoid the spread of the infection.

  • Do not touch or rub your eye:

Avoid the urge to rub or touch the infected eye as it can lead to swelling.

  • Avoid sharing your items:

Whether it is contact lenses, eye makeup, or glasses, do not let others use them. Moreover, ensure that you do use anyone’s items as well.

  • Use a warm compress:

Soak a cotton cloth in warm water and place it in your infected eye for a few minutes. Do this process at least 3-4 times a day until you recover from the infection. It helps ease the pain in your eyes caused due to pink eyes.

Prevention of Conjunctivitis

You can prevent the spread of conjunctivitis by -

  • Not touching or rubbing your infected eye

  • Maintaining good personal hygiene

  • Removing contact lenses before sleeping and following the right lens hygiene

  • Keeping your glasses clean

  • Not sharing personal items

  • Using goggles when swimming in public pools


While there are multiple reasons for pink eye, infective conjunctivitis can be highly contagious. Home treatments are effective and reduce the spread of the infection. However, it is best to consult a doctor if the irritation does not recover in 4-7 days. Proper medical care is needed before conjunctivitis causes any further severe risks, especially in newborns.


Any serious complications arising from conjunctivitis will require intensive care. The treatment cost for the same can be expensive. So, you get in touch with your health insurance provider and check whether such cases are covered in your policy or not.


Usually, conjunctivitis infection can be prevented from spreading and occurring by maintaining proper hygiene in our day to day life.

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