Conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid.

Children get it a lot. It can be highly contagious (it spreads rapidly in schools and day cares), but it’s rarely serious. It’s very unlikely to damage your vision, especially if you find it and treat it quickly. When you take care to prevent its spread and do all the things your doctor recommends, pinkeye clears up with no long-term problems.

What Causes Pinkeye?

Several things could be to blame, including:

  • Viruses, including the kind that causes the common cold
  • Bacteria
  • Irritants such as shampoos, dirt, smoke, and pool chlorine
  • A reaction to eyedrops
  • An allergic reaction to things like pollen, dust, or smoke. Or it could be due to a special type of allergy that affects some people who wear contact lenses.
  • Fungi, amoebas, and parasites

What Are the Symptoms of Pinkeye?

They depend on the cause of the inflammation, but may include:

  • Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
  • Swollen conjunctiva
  • More tears than usual
  • Thick yellow discharge that crusts over the eyelashes, especially after sleep. It can make your eyelids stick shut when you wake up.
  • Green or white discharge from the eye
  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • More sensitive to light
  • Swollen lymph nodes (often from a viral infection)

When to Call Your Doctor

Make the call if:

  • There’s a lot of yellow or green discharge from your eye, or if your eyelids are stuck together in the morning
  • You have severe pain in your eye when you look into a bright light
  • Your vision is obviously affected by pinkeye
  • You have a high fever, shaking chills, face pain, or vision loss. (These are very unlikely symptoms.)
  • Call your doctor right away if your newborn has pinkeye, as it could permanently harm their vision.

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