by Michelle Badash, MS
Conjunctivitis is swelling and irritation in the eye. It affects the tissue that covers the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid. This tissue is called the conjunctiva.
There are many causes of conjunctivitis including:
Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious.
Risk Factors TOP
This condition is more common in children.
Factors that may increase your risk of conjunctivitis include:
Conjunctivitis will usually clear up within 2-14 days. If conjunctivitis is caused by a seasonal allergy, it may continue throughout the season. If it is caused by a non-seasonal allergy, it may continue to occur year round.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. Your eyes will be examined. If there is discharge from your eye, it may be tested. The discharge will help find the cause of the conjunctivitis.
Avoid wearing contact lenses until the conjunctivitis has cleared.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the conjunctivitis:
Antibiotic eye drops and/or ointment may be prescribed. These drops will help shorten the course of the infection. It will also decrease the amount of time it is contagious. Wipe away any discharge with a clean cotton ball before using the drops.
There is no medication to cure a viral infection. To help relieve discomfort consider:
Allergic or Chemical Irritation TOP
Avoid the cause of the irritation. Apply cool compresses to the affected area. Eye drops may be prescribed to help relieve allergic conjunctivitis.
To Prevent Further Spread of Infection TOP
If you have a bacterial or viral infection, follow these steps to prevent the spread of infection:
To decrease your chance of conjunctivitis:
Your doctor may recommend other prevention methods, depending on the cause.
American Optometric Association
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Infectious conjunctivitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated July 15, 2016. Accessed September 1, 2017.
Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed September 1, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 9/15/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.