Best Treatment Options for Conjunctivitis

Treatment of pink eye depends on whether it’s caused by bacteria, a virus, an allergen or something else. The best treatment options for conjunctivitis include the following:

  • Antibiotic eye drops or ointments to treat bacterial conjunctivitis.
  • Antiviral medication to treat viral conjunctivitis.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with antihistamine eye drops, decongestant eye drops, or a combination of both.
  • Artificial tears: Artificial tears can help soothe irritated eyes and relieve symptoms such as dryness and burning.
  • Steroid eye drops: In severe cases of conjunctivitis, steroid eye drops may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms more quickly.

A few of these treatments are further discussed below:

Treatment for pink eye caused by bacteria

If bacteria are causing your pink eye, your provider will give you a prescription for antibiotics (eye drops, ointments or pills). If it’s tricky to put ointment in your eye or your child’s eye, don’t worry. If the ointment gets as far as the eyelashes, it will most likely melt into the eye.

Treatment for pink eye caused by viruses

Pink eye caused by a virus doesn’t need treatment unless it’s caused by herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox/shingles) or a sexually transmitted infection. These are serious infections that require antiviral medications. If not treated, they could scar your eye or cause vision loss. Antibiotics can’t treat pink eye caused by a virus.

Treatment for pink eye caused by irritating substances

If something gets into your eyes and irritates them, rinse your eyes with a gentle stream of warm water for five minutes. Avoid further exposure to the irritating substances. Your eyes should begin to improve within four hours after rinsing them. If they don’t, call your healthcare provider. If the substance in your eyes is a strong acid or alkaline chemical (such as drain cleaner), rinse your eyes with water and call your healthcare provider immediately.

Treatment for pink eye caused by allergies

Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with prescription or over-the-counter eye drops. These contain either antihistamines to control allergic reactions or anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids or decongestants. You can relieve your symptoms temporarily by applying a cold compress to your closed eyes. You can prevent this kind of pink eye by avoiding the allergens that cause your symptoms or taking over-the-counter allergy medicines.

Treatment for pink eye caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Pink eye caused by STIs are uncommon but can be serious. Like other causes of pink eye, bacterial pink eye is treated with antibiotics and viral pink eye is treated with antiviral medications. Newborn babies can develop a serious type of pink eye that can cause vision loss. If you’re pregnant and living with an STI, your baby can pick up the bacteria during delivery. It’s standard practice in U.S. hospitals is to apply an antibiotic ointment to every newborn’s eyes to help prevent infection.

Treatment for pink eye caused by autoimmune disease

If you have pink eye caused by an autoimmune disease, treating the underlying illness will also treat your pink eye. Ask your healthcare provider how to manage your symptoms until your eye feels better.

It is important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Self-medication can worsen the condition or cause potential harm.