What is Bacterial Pink Eye?

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  • Written By: Bethney Foster
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2018
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Bacterial pink eye is conjunctivitis of the eye caused by a bacterial infection. Conjunctivitis occurs when the membranes covering the eye become irritated and swollen. In the case of bacterial pink eye, infections by Staphylococci and Streptococci are the most common causes.

Bacterial pink eye is more common in children than adults, but can occur at any age. It most often occurs in only one eye or may be more pronounced in one eye in the beginning. It can, however, occur in both eyes at the same time and often spreads to the other eye once infection begins.

Symptoms of pink eye caused by bacteria include eye pain and a yellow or green eye discharge. This discharge may cause the eyes to become crusted during sleep. Applications of warm cloths may be necessary to clean the eye. Treatment also includes an antibiotic ointment if the condition doesn’t resolve itself within a few days.

Other symptoms can include redness of the eyes, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. Especially with bacterial pink eye, there may be a gritty feeling to the eyes. Pain and itching of the eyes is associated with all types of conjunctivitis.


Other types of pink eye include allergic, viral, and chemical. Allergic pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is due to an allergic reaction to something in the environment. A virus, most often one of the adenoviruses, causes viral pink eye. The viral infections are usually not associated with the discharge seen in bacterial conjunctivitis. Getting a chemical substance in the eye causes chemical pink eye.

Infectious pink eye, both the bacterial and viral type, is contagious. When infected with pink eye, patients should avoid touching the eye area. Care should be taken to ensure that hands are washed before and after applications of medications.

The person with bacterial pink eye should not share personal items such as cosmetics or eye drops with other people during treatment. Homes should be carefully disinfected while a family member is being treated to avoid spreading the infection. Contact lenses and eye makeup should be not used during an infection of bacterial pink eye.

Bacterial pink eye occurs throughout the world, and most people will have a bout of it in their lifetimes. Teachers, day-care workers, and others who spend lots of time with children are more likely to contract the condition. Those who have sinusitis, suppressed immune systems, or sexually transmitted diseases are also more at risk of contracting bacterial pink eye.



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