Pink eye (or conjunctivitis) happens when the conjunctiva -- the thin, transparent membrane that lines your eyeball and your eyelid -- becomes inflamed for various reasons. Most cases of pink eye run a predictable course, and the inflammation usually clears up in a few days.
Pink eye is a common disease, especially in children. Although pink eye can be highly contagious (known to spread rapidly in schools or daycare settings), it is rarely serious and will not damage your vision if detected and treated promptly.
- Bacterial pink eye usually infects both eyes and produces a heavy discharge of pus and mucus.
- Viral pink eye typically begins in one eye, causing lots of tears and a watery discharge. Within a few days the other eye becomes involved. A swollen lymph node may be felt just in front of the ear. This is probably the most contagious form of pink eye.
- Allergic pink eye produces tearing, itching, and redness in the both eyes, and sometimes an itchy, runny nose.
- Ophthalmia neonatorum is a severe form of bacterial pink eye in newborn babies. It must be treated immediately by a doctor to prevent permanent eye damage or blindness.
- Giant papillary conjunctivitis is another form of pink eye. It is most frequently associated with the long-term use of contact lenses.
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