Shannon Kluppel, M.D.

Pink eye (Conjunctivitis)



Conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelids and covering the eyeball, is the most common eye disease in children.  Symptoms frequently begin in one eye but usually spread to both within a day or two.  They eyes are red and the eyelids are often swollen.  In addition, the eyes may develop an oozing discharge that blurs the vision and may glue the eyelids together, particularly during sleep.  The eyes are often itchy and sensitive to light, but usually not painful.


What causes conjunctivitis?


Conjunctivitis is often caused by viral infections.   Bacteria are another frequent cause.  Allergies, injury, and contact with chemicals or noxious vapors can also produce the conditions.  Babies may contract conjunctivitis during birth if the mother has a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.  Newborn babies may also contract bacterial conjunctivitis.  Birth-related eye injuries or blocked tear ducts can cause conjunctivitis as well. 


Is medical attention necessary?


Although mild conjunctivitis may resolve without treatment, medical evaluation is needed to rule out potentially sever infections involving the cornea.  If conjunctivitis is diagnosed and treated promptly, it usually clears without a trace in both newborns and older children.