What is Pink Eye or Red Eye? – MPO Cares | MPO Eyecare

What is Pink Eye or Red Eye?

Red eye, also known as pink eye, can often sound a little scary to some; however, it is a very common eye problem that can be easily treated and prevented. The medical name for this disease is called, Conjunctivitis – meaning there is an inflammation of the thin, clear covering of the white part of your eye and on the inside of your eyelids.


Still confused with what pink eye really is? Let us help you break it down a bit…The inside of the eyelid is called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a transparent layer that contains blood vessels, which overlays the sclera of your eye. A sclera is the outer coat of the eye that forms the whiteness of the eye and surrounds the optic nerve in the back of the eyeball. When something triggers the inflammation, this will cause the blood vessels to dilate causing your eyes to look red and bloodshot.

There are three different types of pink eye: viral, bacterial, and allergic.


  • Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus which can be very contagious. Viral conjunctivitis can simply spread by eye contact or by coughing or sneezing.  Your eyes may get a bit watery and itchy, making it very sensitive to light. Fortunately a viral pink eye will usually clear up on its own within a couple of days without any medical treatment. Also, an easy way to relieve the itch and irritation would be the use some eye drops.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria. This kind of pink eye can lead to severe damage to the eye if not treated quickly by a professional.  Some symptoms include a sticky, yellow or greenish eye discharge in the corner of the eye. For more serious conditions, the discharge can even cause the eyelids to stick together when waking up in the morning (some people may think it may be eye-residue). Bacteria can spread to the eye when unwashed hands come in contact with the eyes. It is best to consult a professional eye doctor to prescribe you some antibiotic eye drops or eye ointments to treat bacterial conjunctivitis.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis is caused when your eye becomes irritated from seasonal pollen or year-around dust and animal fur. Just like the other two, some of the symptoms include watery and itchy eyes with a burning sensation. People who are allergic can experience stuffy or runny nose and become very sensitive to light. Unlike the other two, allergic pink eye usually happens to both eyes at once and is not contagious. Regular over the counter allergy medicine can do the job, but doctors usually recommend getting a prescribed medication intake before the allergy season comes.

Even with the right precaution and care, it is still possible to develop pink eye. Because a pink eye can be a symptom of other eye problems, be sure to consult an eye doctor, such as Dr. Scott Lam, who is trained to medically treat patients. Feel free to give MPO Eyecare a call to learn more about pink eye and how to prevent it.