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Conjunctivitis is the medical term for pink eye. It is the most common cause of a red eye. The conjunctiva (sclera and conjunctiva) of the eye is a thin layer of mucous membrane containing many fine blood vessels. In case of irritation these vessels expand, causing the eye to turn red and irritated.

The most common cause of conjunctivitis is a virus or bacterium. Allergies, dry eyes or irritants in the environment can cause conjunctivitis.

Symptoms of pink eye

The affected eye is red and produces discharge, but usually hardly painful.

  1. A bacterial conjunctivitis produces yellow-green discharge (pus).
  2. Most viral infections of the conjunctiva cause mucus formation and watery secretion. This type of conjunctivitis often follows a cold, and may be persistent. Artificial tears bring relief sometimes.
  3. Allergic conjunctivitis often causes itching and watery discharge, and a redness varying from moderate to intense.
  4. With dry eyes, the eyes may turn slightly red and cause a burning, possibly even painful sensation, and the sensation of having something inside the eye. Extreme sensitivity for light and blurred vision are common in more serious forms of dry eye. Sometimes dry eyes will actually tear a lot, contradictory as this may seem.
  5. Irritating substances cause mainly strong, watery discharge, possibly followed by redness of the eye.
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Through examination, the ophthalmologist or GP can distinguish between the different types of conjunctivitis. Sometimes it may be necessary to swab the affected  mucus area with a cotton swab. Through test it can then be determined which bacterium or virus it is and how it can be controlled.


The bacterial and viral forms of conjunctivitis are contagious, we advise you to wash your hands thoroughly with every daily action and when you use eye drops,  and use towels or handkerchiefs only once.

Any questions? Please contact OMC Amstelland.


  1. In case of bacterial conjunctivitis, an antibiotic can be given in the form of eye drops, ointment or a gel.
  2. Antibiotics have no effect on viral conjunctivitis, they may however prevent a inflammation from turning into a bacterial conjunctivitis. Sometimes the use of anti-inflammatory eye drops is necessary.
  3. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with specific allergy-drops.
  4. Dry eyes can be treated with artificial tears. There are many types of drops, ointments and gels on the market that help diminish the symptoms of dry eyes.


Source: NOG patient information  –

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