Frequently Asked Questions
Red Eye (or Pink Eye)
The eye turns usually turns pink because of conjunctivitis, an inflammation
of the thin, normally transparent cellophane-like membrane lining the
eye and the eyelids. Occasionally, internal eye problems may cause a pink
What causes conjunctivitis?
Viruses, bacteria, allergies and chemicals are common causes of conjunctivitis.
Sometimes, it may be difficult to determine precisely which of these factors
Usually it starts suddenly with redness, watering, and excessive sensitivity
to light. Many different viruses are responsible. Some are highly contagious
for up to two weeks. They often spread by finger-to-eye contact. Frequent
hand washing reduces the likelihood of infection. To prevent transmission
to other members of the household, do not use the same towel or pillow.
There is no good treatment for viral conjunctivitis.
Usually it starts suddenly with redness and a feeling of grittiness and
burning. There is a pus-like discharge and, on waking, the lids may be
stuck together and be difficult to open. Increased sensitivity to light
may be present in more severe cases. Vision is not affected. Treatment
consists of antibiotic drops during the day and, sometimes, antibiotic
ointment at night. Before applying antibiotics, crusts and discharge should
be washed away with the help of warm compresses (see "How
To"). It is prudent to use antibiotics in both eyes, even though one
of them does not appear involved by the infection, as yet. To prevent
transmission to other members of the household do not use the same towel
or pillow. Bacterial conjunctivitis usually resolves within 2 weeks.
In case of a chemical splash wash the eye for 15 min with tap water, then
arrange to be seen immediately at our office, or at the Kresge Eye Institute