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About Conjunctivitis


About Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a common condition for people of all ages. It causes swelling of the thin, clear layer that covers the white of your eye and lines your eyelid (the conjunctiva).  Most people with conjunctivitis will have a red eye or eyes, with a watery discharge that can make them stick together. That’s why it’s also known as Pink Eye.

Viruses and bacteria are the most common infectious causes of conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is the most frequent cause observed more frequently during summer and spring. Although it's usually a relatively minor health problem, it can have a significant impact on your daily life and work.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms

If you have one or more of the following symptoms in one or both of your eyes, you may have conjunctivitis:

  • Redness of the white of your eye
  • White or yellow discharge in your eyes – this may make them stick together in the morning and be difficult to open
  • Blurry vision caused by discharge around your eye, which clears when you blink
  • A gritty feeling in your eye that can feel itchy or burn
  • Watery eyes
  • Sensitivity to light

Some of these symptoms can be caused by problems other than conjunctivitis. If you have pain in your eye or feel sensitive to light or your sight is affected, contact your GP or optometrist straight away.

For healthcare professionals, advanced information about diagnosis is available on our Practitioner Site.

Types & Causes

Types & Causes

  • Infectious conjunctivitis

    Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis

    Viral conjunctivitis may cause cold-like symptoms such as fever and sore throat. Bacterial conjunctivitis may be due to poor hygiene, using contaminated cosmetics or physical contact with someone with the infection. Both types can be easily spread from person to person.

    Neonatal conjunctivitis

    This type of conjunctivitis occurs in newborn babies within the first 28 days of life. It may be caused by an infection, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Infection is acquired from infected mothers during passage through the birth canal.

  • Non-infectious conjunctivitis

    Allergic conjunctivitis

    Allergic conjunctivitis affects both of your eyes and they will feel really itchy. You may have hay fever or asthma symptoms too. It occurs more commonly among people who already have seasonal allergies.

    Chemical conjunctivitis

    Chemical conjunctivitis can be caused by irritants such as air pollution, chlorine in swimming pools or exposure to noxious chemicals.




Your GP is the best person to diagnose your conjunctivitis. They will ask about your symptoms and examine you. They may take a swab of your eye and send it to a laboratory to be tested. This will help to identify what’s causing your conjunctivitis. Your GP might refer you to an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specialises in eye health).

For healthcare professionals, advanced information about diagnosis is available on our Practitioner Site.



  • Treatment Overview

    If you have Pink Eye (conjunctivitis), please visit your local doctor for advice. If your doctor thinks the Pink Eye is caused by bacteria, he or she may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or eye ointment to kill the bacteria. But antibiotics only work for bacterial Pink Eye, not for the more common viral pinkeye. Viral Pink Eye often clears on its own in 7 to 10 days. If your symptoms last longer, call your doctor.

    If the Pink Eye is caused by an allergy or chemical, it will not go away until you avoid whatever is causing it. You should stay away from the things that trigger the symptoms. Your doctor may suggest that you use eye drops to help soothe redness and itching. Your doctor may also prescribe anti- allergy eye drops and medicines to reduce symptoms of Pink Eye caused by allergies.

    • Wash your hands often. Always wash them before and after you treat Pink Eye or touch your eyes or face.
    • Use moist cotton or a clean, wet cloth to remove crust. Use a clean part of the cloth for each wipe. If the infection is in only one eye, be careful not to spread it to the other eye.
    • Put cold or warm wet cloths (whichever feels better) on your eye a few times a day if the eye hurts.
    • Do not wear contact lenses until the Pink Eye is gone. Sterilize your contacts, and clean your storage case. If you wear disposable contacts, use a new pair when your eye has cleared and it is safe to wear contacts again. Wait at least 2 days after the symptoms are gone before you wear contacts again.
    • Do not wear eye makeup until the Pink Eye is gone. Throw away any eye makeup you were using when you got Pink Eye.
    • Do not share towels, pillows, or washcloths while you have Pink Eye.

    If the doctor gave you antibiotic eye drops or ointment, use them as directed. Use the medicine for as long as instructed, even if your eye starts to look better sooner. Keep the bottle tip clean, and do not let it touch the eye area.

  • Antibiotic treatment options for bacterial conjunctivitis

    The antibiotic eye drops commonly used to treat bacterial conjunctivitis differ according to mechanism of action, delivery and administration and can be prescribed according to the individual licenses and approvals. Several classes of antibiotic eye drops are effective against bacterial conjunctivitis.

    Please consult your treating physician who is best placed to advise you further on the treatment. Always talk to your physician or doctor before taking any medicine.

  • How can you avoid spreading Pink Eye?

    Pink Eye caused by a virus or bacteria is spread through contact with the eye drainage. Touching an infected eye leaves drainage on your hand. If you touch your other eye or an object when you have drainage on your hand, you can spread the virus or bacteria.

  • Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of Pink Eye

    • Wash your hands before and after you touch your eyes or face or use medicine in your eyes.
    • Do not share eye makeup.
    • Do not share contact lens equipment, containers, or solutions.
    • Do not share eye medicine.
    • Do not share towels, bed linens, pillows, or handkerchiefs. Use clean linens, towels, and washcloths each day.



Please note that this is an international, above country level, disease awareness website for patients.