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Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)

A condition in which the conjunctiva (membranes lining the eyelids and covering the white part of the eye) become inflamed or infected. Also called pinkeye.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a protective membrane covering the white part of the eye and the inner side of the eyelid. When people have conjunctivitis, both of their eyes are often red because the infection can spread very easily from one eye to the other.

Conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by bacteria or viruses, and sometimes by an allergy. Bacterial conjunctivitis usually gets better within a week without treatment, but viral infections can last as long as four weeks.

Because the virus can easily spread through contact with your fingers, it is important not to touch an infected eye with your bare hands. If you do touch your eye, be sure to wash your hands right away. It is also a good idea to use your own towels and washcloths, and not share them with other people.

Symptoms

Bacterial conjunctivitis makes your eyes red and watery. The conjunctiva produces a yellowish-white discharge that makes your eyelids stick together. This is especially noticeable when you wake up in the morning. The conjunctiva can also become sore and hurt when you move your eye, and you may have an itching and burning sensation in your eyes... Read more about Conjunctivitis

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Antibiotics versus placebo for acute bacterial conjunctivitis

Acute bacterial conjunctivitis is an infective condition in which one or both eyes become red and inflamed. The condition is not normally serious and in most cases resolves spontaneously. People with acute conjunctivitis are often given antibiotics, usually as eye drops or ointment, to speed recovery. The benefits of antibiotics to the sufferer of conjunctivitis have been questioned. We found 11 randomised controlled trial (RCTs) from different parts of the world which recruited a total of 3673 participants overall. We judged two of the trials to be of high quality, and we graded the remainder as poor quality. This updated review provides clearer evidence that use of antibiotic eye drops can speed up the resolution of symptoms and infection, and that they are unlikely to be associated with any serious side effects.

Topical antihistamines and mast cell stabilisers for treating seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis

Are treatments with eye drops of antihistamines and mast cell stabilisers, alone or in combination, effective and safe in people with seasonal and allergic conjunctivitis? The main outcome measure was eye symptoms reported by participants, including eye itching, irritation (burning sensation), watering eyes (tearing), and photophobia (dislike of light). We found 30 trials.

Olopatadine for the Treatment of Allergic Conjunctivitis: A Review of the Clinical Efficacy, Safety, and Cost-Effectiveness [Internet]

This Rapid Response report aims to review the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of olopatadine for the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis. This is an update to the previous CADTH Rapid Response review.

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Summaries for consumers

Conjunctivitis: Can antibiotics help?

Almost half of all simple cases of conjunctivitis clear up within ten days without any treatment. If the conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria, antibiotic eye drops or creams can help speed up the process somewhat. If it is caused by a virus, antibiotics do not help.

Conjunctivitis: Overview

Typical symptoms of conjunctivitis include sticky eyelids in the morning, and itchy and burning eyes. This infection is usually harmless, but it is contagious and can be quite persistent, depending on the cause. Here you can read about effective treatments and how to prevent infection.

Antibiotics versus placebo for acute bacterial conjunctivitis

Acute bacterial conjunctivitis is an infective condition in which one or both eyes become red and inflamed. The condition is not normally serious and in most cases resolves spontaneously. People with acute conjunctivitis are often given antibiotics, usually as eye drops or ointment, to speed recovery. The benefits of antibiotics to the sufferer of conjunctivitis have been questioned. We found 11 randomised controlled trial (RCTs) from different parts of the world which recruited a total of 3673 participants overall. We judged two of the trials to be of high quality, and we graded the remainder as poor quality. This updated review provides clearer evidence that use of antibiotic eye drops can speed up the resolution of symptoms and infection, and that they are unlikely to be associated with any serious side effects.

See all (24)

More about Conjunctivitis

Photo of a young adult

Also called: Pink eye

Other terms to know:
Conjunctiva, Sclera (White of the Eye)

Keep up with systematic reviews on Conjunctivitis:

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