Authored by Revere Health

Treatment for Pink Eye in Children and Adults

April 13, 2016 | Ophthalmology

Eye Drops

The medical name for pink eye is conjunctivitis. Medical professionals such as ophthalmologists use this term to describe inflammation of the conjunctiva, which are the thin filmy membranes covering inner eyelid and the outer surface of the white part of the eye.


Symptoms of pink eye include:

Pink color to the whites of one or both eyes
A gritty sensation in one or both eyes
Itching or burning feeling in one or both eyes
Excessive tearing and watery eyes
Pus coming from one or both eyes
Swollen or puffy eyelids
Increased sensitivity to light


Treatment depends largely on the cause and type of pink eye. There are three main causes of pink eye: bacteria, viruses and allergies.


These symptoms vary depending on the cause and type of your pink eye.

Causes and Types of Pink Eye


Treatment depends largely on the cause and type of pink eye. There are three main causes of pink eye: bacteria, viruses and allergies. Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and usually causes a very red eye that produces pus. Caused by the same virus that causes the common cold, viral conjunctivitis is also contagious but produces watery pus. Allergic conjunctivitis is the result of the body’s reaction to an allergen or irritant; this type of pink eye is not contagious and usually causes only itchy eyes.

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are quite contagious. Common ways of spreading the bacteria and viruses that cause pink eye include:

Direct contact with infected secretions, especially through hand-to-eye contact
Spreading bacteria living in the individual’s own nose or sinuses to the eye
Wearing unclean or poorly fitting contact lenses or decorative lenses

Other causes of pink eye include excessive lens use, especially with the extended-wear types of lenses, chemicals, fungi and certain diseases. Anyone can develop conjunctivitis but children are at greater risk for pink eye from bacteria or viruses because they come into close contact with other kids at daycare or school. Furthermore, children are not as likely to practice good hand hygiene.

Fortunately, you can reduce your risk for contracting or spreading pink eye. Practicing good hygiene, especially good hand washing, can help prevent the spread of pink eye in children and adults.

Pink eye causes 3 million lost school days, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that bacterial conjunctivitis is the leading cause of absenteeism from school or daycare. Proper treatment for pink eye in children reduces the number of lost school days.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Pink Eye

Eye care specialists diagnose pink eye through a comprehensive eye evaluation and tests that evaluate the conjunctiva and surrounding tissue. Ophthalmologists start by gathering a detailed history about your symptoms, health problems that may be affecting your eyes and environmental conditions that may contribute to your pink eye. Your eye care professional will perform visual acuity tests to determine if your conjunctivitis has affected your vision. The eye doctor will evaluate your conjunctiva, external eye tissue and inner structures of the eye to make sure pink eye is not affecting other tissues. The clinician may take cultures or smears of the conjunctival tissues for testing in a laboratory.

There are three main goals of treatment for pink eye, and they are:

To improve patient comfort
Reduce infection and inflammation
Prevent the spread of contagious conjunctivitis

Pink eye causes 3 million lost school days, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis centers on removing or avoiding the irritant. Cool compresses and artificial tears help in mild cases of allergic conjunctivitis, while more severe cases may require non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antihistamines or topical steroid eye drops.


Eye doctors treat bacterial conjunctivitis with antibiotic eye drops or ointments. Because antibiotics do not work on viruses, the treatment for viral conjunctivitis is cool compresses and artificial tears.


For more information about treating pink eye in children and adults, contact Revere Health.


Revere Health Ophthalmology offers patients the best in eye care from the treatment of eye-related diseases and conditions to prescribing glasses and contacts.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.