McCosh Health Center
Princeton, NJ 08544
Tel 609-258-3141, 609-258-3139
Conjunctivitis ("pink eye")
What is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis, also known as "pink eye," is an
inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear mucous membrane
that covers the white part of the eyeball and the inside of
the eyelid. It is most often caused by a bacterial or viral
infection, or an allergic reaction. The inflammation of
conjunctivitis makes it an irritating condition, but it is
usually harmless to sight.
Because conjunctivitis is extremely
contagious, it's important to seek early diagnosis
and treatment. The symptoms of conjunctivitis can
- redness in one or both eyes, with the blood vessels
over the white of the eye more visible and swollen
- itchiness or pain in one or both eyes
- blurred vision and sensitivity to light
- "gritty" feeling in the eye
- stickiness of the eyelids, with a discharge that
forms a crust during the night
- lining of the eyelids redder or pinker than
- sensitivity to bright light (photophobia)
If you have any of the above symptoms, come in to see a
health care provider at Princeton University Health Services
to determine which form of conjunctivitis you have and how
to best treat it.
Conjunctivitis can be prevented!
Conjunctivitis is very contagious and can be easily
passed from one person to another. It is possible to avoid
spreading the germs and reduce your chance of becoming
infected with scrupulous hand-washing, especially before
and after touching your eyes, and if you use computer
key boards which are also used by others such as in
computer clusters or the library.
It may be helpful to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
when you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water.
Do not share towels, drinking glasses and bottles, and
eating utensils. Also, make sure to dispose of tissues
properly -- send them straight into the trash!
While it is best to see a health care provider at
Princeton University Health Services to determine the exact
cause of infection and appropriate treatment, there are a
few things that you can do in the meantime to ease the pain
and discomfort of conjunctivitis:
- if you are a contact lens wearer, remove your lenses
and wear glasses until one week after the problem is
- discard your contact lenses and all your contact lens
solutions, and start with new lenses and fresh solutions
when you resume wearing your lenses
- bathe the eyes with water or water with a pinch of
salt in it (remember to wash your hands after touching
your eyes to prevent infecting others)
- soothe eyes with over-the-counter eye cleansing
solution, such as sterile saline solutions for contact
lens wearers (if it is a bacterial infection,
prescription antibiotic eye drops or ointment will be
- clean the crusting on the eyelids every few hours
with a cotton swab soaked in lukewarm water
Please call Princeton University Health Services for
questions, concerns and medical assistance at 258-3141
or 258-3139 24 hours a day for assistance.
Pamela Bowen, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Princeton University Health Services