Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of the eyeball. The inflammation affects the blood vessels in the eye and gives the eye a pink or red appearance.
Pink eye can be caused by either a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction, a foreign object in the eye or a blocked tear duct. Pink eye can be contagious, so diagnosis and proper treatment is important. The most common symptoms of pink eye include:
- Redness in one or both eyes
- Itchiness in one or both eyes
- A discharge that may become crusty overnight
- Excessive tearing
- A feeling of grittiness in the eye
Treatment for pink eye depends on the type of conjunctivitis. Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis may include a prescription for antibiotic eye drops or ointment. There is no treatment for viral conjunctivitis and the condition will eventually ease over the course of time. If the source of the viral conjunctivitis is the herpes simplex virus, the doctor will determine if antiviral medication should be used. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with eyedrops for people with allergies but it first must be determined if allergies are the cause.