What is Conjunctivitis? Common Causes & Symptoms

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as Pink Eye, is a prevalent eye condition that can affect people of all ages. Characterised by inflammation of the conjunctiva—the thin, transparent layer covering the eye surface and inner eyelids—conjunctivitis manifests in various forms, each with distinct causes, symptoms, and treatments. This article explores the nuances of conjunctivitis, shedding light on what it is, its potential causes, symptoms, and available treatments.

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva, resulting in redness, irritation, and discomfort. The condition can be infectious (caused by bacteria or viruses), allergic (triggered by allergens like pollen or pet dander), or irritant-induced (caused by substances like smoke or chemicals).

Causes of Conjunctivitis

Infectious Conjunctivitis

  • Bacterial: Caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus.
  • Viral: Often associated with common cold viruses, like adenoviruses.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

  • Triggered by allergens like pollen, mould, or pet dander.
  • Irritant-induced Conjunctivitis:
  • Caused by exposure to smoke, chemicals, or other irritants.

Common Symptoms

  • Redness: The whites of the eyes may appear pink or red.
  • Itching: Persistent itching or a gritty feeling in the eyes.
  • Discharge: Watery or pus-like discharge from the eyes.
  • Swelling: Swollen eyelids and increased sensitivity to light.
  • Tearing: Excessive tearing or watering of the eyes.

Treatment Options

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

  • Typically treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments.
  • Practising good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, helps prevent its spread.

Viral Conjunctivitis

  • Resolves on its own over time.
  • Supportive care includes cold compresses and artificial tears for symptom relief.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

  • Antihistamine eye drops or oral antihistamines can alleviate symptoms.
  • Avoiding allergens and using cool compresses may provide relief.

Irritant-induced Conjunctivitis

  • Removal of the irritant source is crucial.
  • Symptomatic relief through artificial tears and cool compresses.

Preventive Measures

Hand Hygiene

  • Regular handwashing helps prevent the spread of infectious conjunctivitis.

Avoiding Touching Eyes

  • Minimising eye rubbing reduces the risk of irritant-induced or allergic conjunctivitis.

Allergen Avoidance

  • Identifying and avoiding allergens is crucial for those prone to allergic conjunctivitis.

Personal Items

  • Avoid sharing towels, pillows, or eye makeup to prevent bacterial transmission.
  • Clean contact lenses properly. You won’t have this problem with our prescription glasses  – Okay that was a cheap shot 😉


Conjunctivitis, or Pink Eye, encompasses a spectrum of conditions, each demanding a tailored approach to management. Whether caused by infectious agents, allergens, or irritants, understanding the distinctive characteristics of conjunctivitis empowers individuals to seek timely intervention and adopt preventive measures. While many cases resolve with proper care and hygiene practices, consulting with healthcare professionals ensures accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, facilitating a swift return to optimal eye health.