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First aid

Eye - pus or discharge

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Conjunctivitis - Viral (Pink Eye)
Conjunctivitis - Viral (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis - Bacterial
Conjunctivitis - Bacterial

  • Yellow or green discharge (pus) in one or both eyes
  • Dried pus on the eyelids and eyelashes. The eyelashes are especially likely to be matted together following sleep
  • May involve one or both eyes

General Information

  • Conjunctivitis is a medical term that means there is irritation or infection involving the white parts of the outer eye and the area under the eyelids.
  • Caution: Individuals with blurred vision or significant eye pain need to be seen by a physician urgently, as significant eye pain and blurred vision do not generally occur in people with conjunctivitis.
Types of Conjunctivitis:
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis (typically, thick white-yellow or green discharge) requires prescription antibiotic eye drops.
  • Viral conjunctivitis (thin, clear-white discharge) is often difficult to distinguish from bacterial conjunctivitis, thus antibiotic eye drops are often prescribed.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis (itching, clear-white discharge)
  • Chemical conjunctivitis from exposure to chemicals, fumes (eye irritation, tearing)
"Pink-Eye" is the term used when either a bacterial or a viral infection is causing the conjunctivitis. Depending on the severity, symptoms can include:
  • Mild discomfort, burning or irritation of the eye(s)
  • White portions of the eye(s) may or may not be pink or red
  • Eyelids may be puffy due to irritation
  • Tearing

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain or discomfort is more than mild
  • Cloudy spot or sore seen on the cornea (clear center part of the eye)
  • Fever of 103° F (39.4° C) or higher
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think you need to be seen
  • Yellow or green discharge or pus in the eye (Reason: probably needs prescription antibiotic eye drops to treat it)

  1. Reassurance: Pink Eye is a common complication of a cold or it can be acquired from exposure to a child or adult who has had it recently. Pink Eye responds to treatment with antibiotic eye drops and is not harmful to vision.
  2. Eyelid Cleansing:
    • Gently wash eyelids and lashes with warm water and wet cotton balls (or cotton gauze). Remove all the dried and liquid pus.
    • Do this as often as needed.
  3. Contacts:
    • Individuals with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily (Reason: to prevent damage to the cornea).
    • Disinfect the contacts before wearing them again (or discard them if disposable).
  4. Expected Course: With treatment, the yellow discharge should clear up in 3 days. The red eyes may persist for several more days.
  5. Contagiousness: Pink Eye is extremely contagious. Try not to touch your eyes. Wash your hands frequently. Do not share towels.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 1/19/2009

Last Revised: 9/21/2007

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Online

Portions Copyright 2000-2009 Self Care Decisions LLC; Copyright LMS, Inc.

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