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What is pink eye?

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Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, refers to swelling and redness in the conjunctiva, a normally clear lining of the eyelid and eye surface, according to WebMD. The redness and swelling occur when the lining becomes irritated or infected. Common causes include bacteria, viruses, dry eyes or allergies.

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In addition to redness and swelling, possible symptoms of pink eye include increased tear production, eye discharge with or without crusting, light sensitivity, gritty sensations in the eyes, and a general feeling of irritation, itching or burning, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The severity of pink eye symptoms ranges from mild to severe. Not all symptoms occur with pink eye.

Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are highly contagious. Pink eye spreads when another person comes into direct contact with either the eyes or eye secretions of someone with the infection, says Mayo Clinic. Pink eye sometimes occurs in conjunction with a cold or respiratory infection. Washing hands, keeping hands away from eyes, and not sharing things like glasses and eye makeup helps prevent the spread of pink eye, according to the CDC.

Viral pink eye typically clears up on its own in five to seven days, states WebMD. Medication doesn't help with viral pink eye, but doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics for bacterial conjunctivitis. Bacterial pink eye usually clears up in two to four days with medication or in seven to 10 days without treatment.

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