What is it?

Conjunctivitis, sometimes called "pink eye," is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane lining the eyelids and covering most of the exposed surface of the eyeball. The inflammation may be caused by many things, including an irritation from contact lenses or a chemical, an allergy, a viral infection, or a bacterial infection.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of conjunctivitis vary depending on what has caused the infection, but generally, there is reddening and irritation, and frequently a discharge from one or both of the eyes. If the infection is bacterial in nature, the discharge is often thick and heavy. This may cause the eyelids to become crusted-over and, upon awakening, difficulty in opening the eye or eyes may be experienced. If the infection is viral in nature, the eyes appear red and the discharge is usually watery and thin. Conjunctivitis due to allergic reactions is often associated with seasonal pollen allergies. The eyes appear red and tear excessively and, itching usually occurs in both eyes.

If you are having severe pain, a more serious condition may be present. See a health care provider promptly.

How is it spread?

Contact with contaminated fingers, washcloths, towels, eye cosmetics and/or handkerchiefs can cause bacterial or viral conjunctivitis to spread from one eye to the other or from one person to another.

What should you do?


  • DO NOT spread the infection by rubbing your eyes.
  • DO NOT share towels, washcloths, eye cosmetics, or handkerchiefs.
  • DO NOT use a treatment prescribed for someone else or one prescribed for you at another time. (Your infection may be different and not respond to the same treatment and since the tube or bottle can be contaminated easily, re-infection can occur.)
  • DO NOT wear eye makeup.
  • DO NOT wear contact lenses until the infection has cleared up, and only after lenses have been thoroughly disinfected.
  • DO expect a prompt and complete cure.
  • DO remember to wash your hands frequently, especially before and after applying ointment to help prevent infection.
  • D0 call the Campus Health Center if you have any questions.
  • DO use fresh, clean towels and washcloths.