Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is classified into three main types, depending on the underlying cause. The first main type has five subtypes, while the remaining two do not have any. Read on to learn more about what kind of pink eye you may have.
This condition occurs when microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, infect your eye and cause inflammation. They can spread easily to another person and to your unaffected eye.1
• Viral Conjunctivitis
Adenoviruses are one of the most common causes of pink eye. They are a family of viruses that target organs with mucous membranes, and usually cause respiratory problems such as the cold or flu.
Classic symptoms of adenoviruses include sore throat, runny nose and eyes, sneezing, headaches, cough and fever.2
There are more than 100 adenoviruses documented, with 51 of them known to cause diseases in humans.3 Other virus strains that can cause pink eye include measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.4
If you’ve been infected with a virus, there’s usually no form of treatment available, so you’ll have to wait until the symptoms subside. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help relieve the symptoms while you’re healing, which you’ll discover further in this guide.
• Bacterial Conjunctivitis
Similar to viral conjunctivitis, pink eye may result from coming into contact with certain bacteria strains, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza.5
The symptoms produced by the bacteria are similar to adenoviruses as well, which include swelling, discharge and red, painful eyes.
In order for your doctor to distinguish between viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, bacterial and viral cultures are created from discharge samples to determine which microorganism is the cause.6
• Neonatal Conjunctivitis
This condition pertains to pink eye that affects newborn children. Since newborns have weak immune systems, they're highly susceptible to pink eye. This occurs when the baby passes through the birth canal while the mother possesses certain types of bacteria that can cause inflammation.7
To prevent this condition from developing, hospital staff immediately put newborn-friendly ointment around the baby’s eyes to prevent any bacteria from spreading. However, if some of the bacteria manage to survive, an infection may occur a few days after leaving the hospital.
• Herpes Simplex Conjunctivitis
Caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1, this type of conjunctivitis differs from other viruses due to fact it can induce blurred vision. Similar symptoms may occur such as eye pain, redness and increased tear production.8
• Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis
As the name implies, epidemic keratoconjunctivitis is a serious form of pink eye that spreads quickly among a large number of people, usually in schools, and usually lasts between two to three weeks. Symptoms of this condition include blurred vision, sensitivity to light, yellow discharge and the feeling that a foreign object is lodged in your eye.9
Allergic conjunctivitis is a negative reaction due to exposure to certain allergens. It causes red, watery eyes, along with itching and a burning feeling. Since the inflammation isn’t caused by a microorganism, this type of pink eye is not contagious. Commonly known allergens include household dust, plant pollen, mold spores and pet dander. If you discover any allergens in your home that cause pink eye, it’s best to get rid of them immediately.10
Chemical conjunctivitis is a non-contagious condition that occurs as an adverse reaction to chemical-based irritants, such as smoke from vehicles, noxious chemicals or chlorine in swimming pools.11 Common symptoms include decreased vision, along with severe pain, redness and swelling in the eyes.12