Strategies to minimize harm and maximize self-care.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the thin tissue that lines the eyelids and covers the white part of the eyeball. Pink eye can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or allergies. Viral pink eye is most common and often follows a cold.
Symptoms may last a few hours to several weeks.
- Increased tear production
- Mild discomfort
- Burning sensation
- Pus-like drainage or crusting of the eyelids, particularly after sleeping
- Avoid touching or rubbing the eyes.
- Wash hands frequently to prevent causing or spreading an infection to the other eye.
- Use a clean, wet washcloth to gently soak off any crusting.
- Discard any eye makeup used during or immediately prior to the onset of symptoms as it may be a source of future reinfection. Avoid eye makeup until symptoms resolve.
- Don’t share towels and pillows.
- Wash or dispose of anything that recently contacted your eyes.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses. This will reduce discomfort, allow medication to cover the entire eye, and help the pink eye clear up more quickly. Current lenses should be discarded, because sterilization methods are not fully effective. Lubricant drops and saline rinses can also be helpful.
- Over-the-counter eye drops relieve redness, itching, and swelling. Limit to short-term use to prevent rebound redness or redness from overuse.
- Most cases of pink eye will go away on their own after a few days, and no special treatment is needed.
When to contact a clinician
- Moderate to severe eye pain
- Bright lights bother the eyes more than usual
- Visual disturbance beyond the occasional blurring caused by discharge or tearing
- Symptoms do not improve within one week
- Symptoms worsen after using the prescribed medication