UT University Health Services

Pink Eye


pink eye Acute viral conjunctivitis, or "pink eye," is a common, highly contagious - but not serious - infection for which home care is usually sufficient. It's spread when an infected person touches their eyes or face and then touches another person or object such as a computer mouse, doorknob, etc. If you touch this surface, then touch your eyes, you can get pink eye. Antibiotics aren't effective against pink eye caused by a virus, but they are effective against secondary bacterial infections, which sometimes develop.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of pink eye can occur by themselves or with a viral upper respiratory infection:
  • Redness of the white part of the eyeball
  • Swollen, inflamed eyelids
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Itching (However, this isn't a predominant symptom with pink eye like it is with allergy-related eye inflammation.)
  • Crusting or matting together of the eyelids especially when you wake up
  • Swollen lymph node(s) in front of your ear(s)

Self-Care

  • Wash your hands frequently to keep from spreading the infection.
  • Wear glasses, not contacts, until all symptoms go away. If you wear disposable contacts, discard your current pair. For all other contacts, clean them thoroughly following manufacturer's instructions.
  • Put a washcloth soaked in warm water on your eyes if matted or if eye discharge is significant. Don't re-use the cloth or put it where someone else might use it.
  • Don't use eye makeup while you have symptoms, and discard any eye makeup you used shortly before your symptoms began.
  • Irrigate your eyes frequently with a non-prescription artificial tear solution. Avoid eye drops that contain decongestants.

Red Flags

CALL THE UHS NURSE ADVICE LINE (512) 475-6877 (NURS) IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • You think you might have a foreign body in your eye
  • Eye pain or light sensitivity so significant that you can't open your eyes well enough to read or drive
  • Pain when you blink
  • Thick, opaque, green or yellow discharge
  • Eye inflammation that is mainly around the circumference of the colored part (iris) rather than the white part (conjunctiva) of your eyeball
  • Call at the first signs of eye inflammation if you have a history of either iritis or a serious viral eye infection (especially if caused by a herpes virus).
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