Overview of Pinkeye

Conjunctivitis, also called pinkeye, is inflammation or infection of the thin membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white part of the eye (sclera). This membrane, which is called the conjunctiva, produces mucus to keep the eye moistened. When the conjunctiva becomes infected, the blood vessels enlarge, making the eye appear pink or red, and the eye produces excess mucus.

Types of Conjunctivitis

There are several types of conjunctivitis, including the following:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis
  • Viral conjunctivitis

Pinkeye can also be caused by exposure to a chemical substance. In infants, conjunctivitis can result from a partially blocked tear duct.

Incidence and Prevalence of Pinkeye

Viral conjunctivitis, which is the most common form of pinkeye, can affect both children and adults. Bacterial conjunctivitis is more common in children.

Newborns (infants from birth to 3 months of age) are highly susceptible to pinkeye and can develop more serious complications if the condition goes untreated. As a preventive measure, all newborns are treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment immediately after birth.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015