What causes pink eye?


Quick Answer

Allergies, bacteria and viruses are common causes of pink eye, according to Mayo Clinic. Foreign objects or chemicals in the eye, contact lenses worn for extended periods of time and blocked tear ducts can also lead to this condition. Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is an extremely contagious condition that can affect one or both eyes.

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Full Answer

According to the Centers for Disease Control, pink eye occurs when the thin covering over the white part of the eye, the conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. If the cause is viral, such as with a cold or sore throat, it typically resolves on its own in one to two weeks. Severe cases can last as long as three weeks. If the cause is bacterial, it typically lasts a few days, with severe cases lasting up to three weeks. Topical antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial pink eye. Both viral and bacterial pink eye usually begin in one eye and spread to the other. With allergic conjunctivitis, onset is usually in both eyes. Treatment involves eliminating the allergen or using allergy medication.

The conjunctiva can also become inflamed when objects such as dirt, eyelashes or chemicals come in contact with it, notes the CDC. Flushing the eye with water can usually clear up this type of pink eye.

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