Skip to main content

What Causes Conjunctivitis?

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Your eyes look as red and bleary as a pair of car taillights in a rainstorm. You feel as though you have road salt trapped under your eyelids. Chances are you have some form of conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the silky-smooth membrane that lines your eyelids and covers the whites of your eyes.

If your eyes itch, burn, and secrete a gummy, yellowish discharge that leaves your eyelashes glued together when you wake up, you may have pinkeye, a painful, contagious type of conjunctivitis sometimes caused by bacterial infection.

Conjunctivitis may be caused by bacteria (on towels, washcloths, or your hands), viruses (such as coldviruses or herpes simplex), allergens (such as pollen), or irritants (such as smoke, pool chlorine, and air pollutants). Sometimes eye makeup or redness-relief eyedrops inflame sensitive tissues and cause or even transmit conjunctivitis.

These infections of the eye can be serious and in children can even lead to loss of sight, so if you have symptoms, see a doctor.

For temporary relief from the symptoms of infectious conjunctivitis, apply a warm, wet washcloth to your eyes for 5 or 10 minutes, three times a day. The moist warmth will help relieve pain and irritation. Launder washcloths and towels after each use. Wash your hands before applying any medicines to your eye. And to avoid reinfection, be sure not to touch any part of your eye with the applicator.

Related Articles