How Do I Know If I Have Pink Eye?

My eye is nearly swollen shut and is discharging a lot of clear liquid. It is also very red. I have had these symptoms for three days and it is not getting any better. How can I tell if I have pink eye?

Technically, conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, means an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the lining of the inside of the eyelids. The condition usually develops as a bacterial or viral eye infection that occurs most commonly in young children. In that form, it is highly contagious. The symptoms can also be caused by allergies (allergic conjunctivitis) and sometimes by certain chemical irritants, such as chlorine in a pool.

Your symptoms do sound like those of conjunctivitis, but you should see a doctor for a positive diagnosis and treatment, if necessary. Sometimes, conjunctivitis is self-limiting, meaning it goes away on its own. Discharge that is clear and thin, as opposed to a thick white, yellow or green color, may indicate viral or allergic conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis caused by a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotic drops or ointment.

Although infectious conjunctivitis is thought of as a children’s infection, it is not uncommon in adults, who can get it in several ways. Sometimes parents catch it from their children. Sharing make-up can transmit it, too. If you do have an infection, it is probably a good idea to throw out your eye make-up – that is, if you wear eye make-up.

You will need to be careful to avoid spreading the infection, both to other people and to your other eye. Wash your hands often, especially before and after cleansing or touching the eye and applying medicine. Launder towels and pillowcases frequently, and do not let others use them.

There is another concern with conjunctivitis in adults. It can be caused by two sexually transmitted bacterial diseases, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Conjunctivitis from these bacteria is very common, but the incidence is growing. This kind of infection definitely needs to be treated with antibiotics for the eye and probably with oral antibiotics for the systemic infection, should one exist.

The information provided on Health Search Online is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.