Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a common eye condition. It’s an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva—the clear membrane covering your eye and the inside of your eyelid. It’s called “pink eye” because the blood vessels in the whites of your eyes become more prominent, making your eye look red or pink.
If you’ve got questions about conjunctivitis, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll discuss different types of pink eye, along with their causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Types of Pink Eye
Pink eye falls into three general types: infectious, allergic, and chemical. All the types of conjunctivitis share some symptoms, so knowing how to tell what kind of pink eye you have can be tricky. But being aware of the main pink eye types and their causes can give you clues.
As the name suggests, this type of conjunctivitis is infectious and highly contagious—meaning it can be spread from person to person. Infectious conjunctivitis can be caused by either a virus or bacteria.
Viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by viruses like the common cold. But other illnesses like rubella (measles) can also cause this type of contagious pink eye. Sometimes, viral conjunctivitis can begin in one eye and spread to the other eye.
As the name implies, bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Sometimes bacterial conjunctivitis can occur with an ear infection.Conjunctivitis that occurs in newborns is often bacterial in nature.
Allergic conjunctivitis isn’t contagious. People with seasonal or perennial allergies may develop allergic conjunctivitis as their body reacts to an allergen. Common triggers include pollen, grass, dust, mold, or pet dander.
Chemical conjunctivitis (also sometimes referred to as irritant conjunctivitis) is caused by exposure to environmental irritants. Car exhaust, smoke, other fumes, or chlorine in pools are common triggers for chemical conjunctivitis. It can also occur when contact lenses aren’t cleaned properly.
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As the name proclaims, one of the most common symptoms of pink eye is a pink color or redness in the whites of one or both eyes. However, conjunctivitis typically comes with more symptoms than redness alone.
Conjunctivitis symptoms can be similar no matter what kind of pink eye you have. But some symptoms are more common in certain pink eye types than in others.
The following symptoms can appear in one or both eyes:
A gritty feeling, like something is stuck in the eye
A pink color or redness in the whites of the eyes
Burning or irritated eyes
Crusty eyes that are hard to open, especially after sleeping (more common in bacterial conjunctivitis)
Discharge of mucus or pus (more common in bacterial conjunctivitis)