Young man hiding his head in hands

April 17, 2014

I have conjunctivitis!? Pink eye! What do I do now?

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is more common than you might think.  UHS had 551 visits for conjunctivitis in the last 12 months.  Chris McGlothlin-Boggs, APRN answers some of your questions about dealing with this condition.

Q:  What is conjunctivitis?  Is it the same as pink eye?

A:  Conjunctivitis is the medical term for “pink eye” so yes, conjunctivitis and pink eye mean the same thing.    The conjunctiva is a thin membrane which lines the inside of the eye (palpebral conjunctiva) as well as the outside of the eye (bulbar conjunctiva).   The purpose of the conjunctiva is to help lubricate and protect the eye.

Q:  I have conjunctivitis, how did this happen?

A:  Conjunctivitis happens when viruses, bacteria, allergens or fungi come in contact with your eye.  This can be from your hands touching your eyes or from objects coming into contact with your eyes.

Q:  While I have conjunctivitis, is it OK to go to class and stay in the dorm/with my roommate?

A:  You may continue your normal activities.  In order to protect others, it is important to be careful about not touching your eyes and remember to  wash your hands frequently. If your eyes are having significant drainage (watering), you need to be extra vigilant about washing your hands.   If you work with children or serve the public, your health care provider may ask you to avoid these activities for a  day or two.

Q:  Can I wear my contacts?

A: If you wear contact lenses, please remove them immediately at the first sign of eye irritation.  Many patients continue to wear their contact lenses despite redness, which increases the chance of serious eye problems.    Always keep a pair of eyeglasses handy in case you need to remove your contact lenses.

Q:  Can I still wear eye make-up?

A:  It is best to not wear makeup until your symptoms have resolved.  It is also a good idea to discard eyeliner and mascara which have been used prior to getting conjunctivitis.

Q:  Should I seek medical attention?

A:  Seek medical attention if you are having eye pain/irritation, redness, swelling, discharge (watering) or visual changes.

 We are here for you.  Contact our Phone Information Nurse with your questions at 859-323-INFO (4636).  Call us for an appointment at 859-323-APPT (2778).

Chris McGlothlin-Boggs has 22 years of clinical experience.  She joined UHS in 2002.  Her special clinical interests are health promotion/disease prevention.  

Additional reading on conjunctivitis.  Photo of conjunctivitis.


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