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Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a very common condition that affects children and adults. The pink or red appearance is caused by inflammation of the eyeball or inner eyelid.

What causes pink eye?

Common causes include:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Allergens
  • Irritants, such as chemicals, fumes, smoke or dust

What are pink eye symptoms?

Most signs of pink eye are the same no matter the cause. They include:

  • Pink or red eyes
  • Gritty feeling in eyes
  • Increased tears
  • Unusual discharge
  • Itching or burning

It can be difficult to determine the cause of infection, but there are some specific symptoms. A virus may be the cause if you also have a cold or respiratory infection, or if the discharge is thin and watery. Bacteria could be the cause if you also have an ear infection or if discharge is thick. Allergies could also be the cause if your eyes itch intensely or if you have other allergies.

How is pink eye treated?

Pink eye treatment sometimes depends on the cause. A healthcare provider can give a diagnosis.

  • Pink eye caused by a virus cannot be treated with antibiotics. It will typically last seven to 14 days, but can last longer.
  • Bacterial pink eye can be treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
  • Allergy medications and certain eye drops can treat allergic pink eye.

Make an appointment to see a healthcare provider right away if you have:

  • A newborn with symptoms
  • Pain in an eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Worsening symptoms
  • A weakened immune system
  • Pre-existing eye conditions

Follow these tips to reduce risk of infection:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water
  • Avoid touching your eyes
  • Throw away eye or face makeup used while eye was infected
  • Throw away disposable contact lenses and solution used while infected
  • Clean extended-wear contacts or eyeglasses used while infected

Consult a healthcare provider if you or your child has symptoms of pink eye. Visit your nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic for diagnosis and treatment.

You can minimize your wait time with our Web Check-In®.

Our CareNow® urgent care clinics are open seven days a week and welcome walk-in patients. Or, try our Web Check-In® feature to avoid wait times from the comfort of your home.

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