Conjunctivitis is an irritation or infection of the membrane that covers the white of they eye and inside the eyelid (conjunctiva). It can affect one or both eyes. The membrane swells and the blood vessels in the membrane enlarge, making the eye red. That is why conjunctivitis is sometimes called pink eye.

The symptoms may include redness in and around the eyes, swollen, sore eyes, itching, burning or stinging eyes, watery eyes or discharge from the eyes and lids that are crusted or stuck together when you wake up. If you experience any of these symptoms see an eye doctor for treatment, early care can prevent damage to your eyes.

Conjunctivitis usually isn’t serious, but other more serious eye diseases have similar symptoms, so it’s important for an eye doctor to diagnose you.

Conjunctivitis may be caused by allergies or other irritants and the problem can keep coming back. Treatment involves relieving the symptoms and avoiding the cause of the irritation. If an infection is present it is caused by either a virus or bacteria. Treatment includes keeping your eyes and hands clean. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops and tell you to stay home from work or school if you are contagious. Untreated infections can be serious, so it is important that a doctor diagnoses you.

To help prevent conjunctivitis: don’t touch your eyes or the area around them, wash your hands often with soap and water, never share your eye medications or use someone else’s, use disposable tissues instead of handkerchiefs, wash towels and bedding in hot water.