Pink eye is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball.

Signs and symptoms

  • Redness in one or both eyes
  • Itchiness in one or both eyes
  • A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
  • A discharge in one or both eyes that forms a crust during the night that may prevent your eye or eyes from opening in the morning
  • Tearing


  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Allergies

Risk Factors

  • Exposure to something for which you have an allergy (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Exposure to someone infected with the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis
  • Using contact lenses, especially extended-wear lenses


  • It often resolves on its own, but treatment can speed the recovery process
  • Apply a compress to your eyes. Generally, a cool water compress will feel the most soothing, but you can also use a warm compress if that feels better to you
  • Try eyedrops. Over-the-counter eye drops called artificial tears may relieve symptoms
  • Stop wearing contact lenses. If you wear contact lenses, you may need to stop wearing them until your eyes feel better
  • Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with antihistamines
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic eye drops

When to seek care

There are serious eye conditions that can cause eye redness. These conditions may cause eye pain, a feeling that something is stuck in your eye (foreign body sensation), blurred vision and light sensitivity. Seek urgent care if you experience those symptoms.


  • Don't touch your eyes with your hands
  • Wash your hands often
  • Use a clean towel and washcloth daily
  • Don't share towels or washcloths
  • Change your pillowcases often
  • Throw away your eye cosmetics, such as mascara
  • Don't share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items

Campus Resources

The Nebraska Medicine University Health Center eye clinic provides complete eye exams for UNL students, faculty and staff. The optometrist also sees students with contact-lens-related red eyes, conjunctivitis, styes, dry eyes, eye injuries and more. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule a visit.