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Pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of your eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. This inflammation causes the blood vessels in the eye to become more visible, giving the eye a pink or reddish appearance.

Pinkeye can be an eye infection or an allergic reaction. Infectious conjunctivitis is the most common type, with viral conjunctivitis more common than bacterial conjunctivitis, according to the National Eye Institute.

Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious. Conjunctivitis viruses typically are spread on the hands or other objects such as eye makeup. The virus can be carried in in eye discharge, tears, fecal matter or respiratory droplets spread directly through coughing or sneezing. Frequent hand-washing, using separate towels, not sharing pillows or eye makeup, and avoiding close contact while infected can reduce the chance of spread.

Bacterial conjunctivitis can spread through hands and contaminated objects as well. Sexual contact also can spread pinkeye, as can mother/baby contact and large respiratory droplets.

Allergic reactions, chemical irritants and foreign objects also can cause pinkeye, or allergic conjunctivitis. Unlike infectious pinkeye, allergic pinkeye is not contagious.

Pinkeye Symptoms

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you may have pinkeye:

  • Eye redness
  • Itching
  • Tearing or watery eyes
  • Crust along your eyelids and eyelashes
  • Eye discharge that can be watery or thick and yellow
  • Sensitivity to light

When To See a Health Care Provider for Pinkeye?

While many cases of pinkeye resolve on their own, see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Significant eye pain, blurred vision or intense redness
  • Symptoms that aren’t improving or are getting worse
  • Thick, yellow or greenish discharge coming from your eye
  • An injury, foreign object in the eye or exposure to a chemical
  • Fever along with pinkeye, which can be a sign of a more serious infection
  • Pinkeye that recurs
  • Pinkeye along with having a weakened immune system, such as from HIV or from cancer treatment

Note: If you have pinkeye symptoms and you wear contact lenses, remove your contact lens and wear glasses until the inflammation goes away.

Norton Now includes same-day care options so you can get the care you need for pinkeye, when you need it and where you need it. Save your spot in line at a Norton Immediate Care Center or visit a Norton Prompt Care clinic for treatment of minor injuries or illnesses.

Use Norton eCare video visits or just answer a few questions online from anywhere in Kentucky or Indiana for care without coming into the office. Your provider can order drive-thru lab testing for you at Norton Healthcare Express Services if it’s needed.

Norton Community Medical Associates primary care offices are located across the Louisville and Southern Indiana area.

If your pinkeye is caused by bacteria, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or antibiotic eye drops. If it’s caused by a virus, your health care provider will recommend ways to relieve symptoms until the virus clears. Be sure to avoid close contact with others until learning whether you’re contagious and before resuming normal activities such as going to school or work, or going out in public.

Pinkeye Treatment and Prevention

While some cases of pinkeye may resolve on their own, there are steps you can take to alleviate symptoms and potentially speed your recovery. Treatment results may vary depending on the cause of the inflammation.

Pinkeye in newborns can be very serious if caused by sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea or chlamydia contracted from the mother. Visit or call your pediatrician right away. For additional information about how to protect your eyes while wearing contact lenses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Home Remedies

  • Soothe dryness and irritation with preservative-free artificial tears available at drug stores and pharmacies. Be sure to follow the package instructions.
  • Stop wearing contact lenses until your symptoms subside. Contact lenses can harbor bacteria and worsen your condition.
  • Avoid areas that are smoky to prevent further irritation.
  • Avoid swimming pools, as the treated water may be an irritant.
  • Use a warm compress on your eyes to soothe a bacterial infection. Warm compresses are not recommended for viral or allergic pinkeye.
  • Try an over-the-counter antihistamine eye drop if your pinkeye is caused by an allergy.

How Long is Pinkeye Contagious?

Viral pinkeye is the most common type of infection and can take one to three weeks to heal.

Bacterial pinkeye often gets better in two to five days, but it can take two weeks or more to heal completely. Antibiotics can speed up the healing time. Ask your physician if your infection would benefit from antibiotics.

How to Avoid Being Reinfected

Follow these steps to avoid being reinfected:

  • Clean extended-wear contact lenses as directed.
  • Clean eyeglasses and cases that were used while infected.
  • Throw away contact lens solutions that were used when you had an infection.
  • Throw away disposable contact lenses and cases that you used before and while being infected.
  • Throw away eye or face makeup or makeup brushes used while you were infected.

Norton Now: Care When You Need It

  • Get medical care when and where it works for you.
    • Norton Community Medical Associates primary care is your medical home. More than 35 locations across the Louisville area and Southern Indiana means there’s an office close to home, work or school. Your primary care physician knows you and your health and performs annual checkups to stay ahead of any emerging conditions. Our doctors and nurse practitioners connect you to the full Norton Healthcare system, giving you and your family easy access to the area’s leading specialty physicians.
    • More than 15 Norton Immediate Care Centers offer treatment for minor illnesses and injuries. Reserve your spot in line and we’ll text you when it’s time to check in. All Norton Immediate Care Centers are equipped with X-ray machines.
    • Norton Prompt Care clinics have same-day appointments available when you need care for yourself or your family. All locations offer extended weekday and weekend hours. Many are located within Walgreens stores.
    • Norton eCare allows you to visit with a provider via secure video or by simply answering questions online about your symptoms.
    • Emergency care is available for a very serious illness or injury that puts your life in danger. Get treatment 24/7 at nine locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana, including three locations for kids.
  • Medicaid, Medicare and most major commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Get test results, renew prescriptions, communicate with your health care provider, get notified if an earlier appointment becomes available and more with your free Norton MyChart account.

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