What Causes Pink Eye in Adults?

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, can affect adults just like it can affect children. It’s an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelids. Pink eye can be caused by various factors, including infections, allergies, irritants, and underlying medical conditions. Here are some common causes of pink eye in adults:

  1. Bacterial Infections: Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacterial infections, usually by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, or Haemophilus influenzae. It can lead to symptoms like redness, discharge (which can be yellow or green), and a gritty sensation in the eye.
  2. Viral Infections: Viral conjunctivitis is often caused by viruses like adenoviruses. It can cause redness, watery discharge, and a sensation of “pink eye.” Viral conjunctivitis can be highly contagious.
  3. Allergies: Allergic conjunctivitis is triggered by allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or certain chemicals. It leads to red, itchy, and watery eyes, along with other allergy symptoms.
  4. Irritants: Exposure to irritants such as smoke, pollution, chemicals, or contact lenses that aren’t properly cleaned can cause irritation and inflammation of the conjunctiva.
  5. Chemical Exposure: Direct exposure to irritant or corrosive chemicals can cause chemical conjunctivitis, leading to severe eye irritation and redness.
  6. Dry Eye Syndrome: Chronic dry eyes can lead to irritation and inflammation of the conjunctiva, causing symptoms similar to conjunctivitis.
  7. Contact Lenses: Improper use, cleaning, or extended wear of contact lenses can lead to irritation and inflammation of the conjunctiva.
  8. Foreign Bodies: If a foreign object, such as dust, debris, or an eyelash, gets trapped in the eye, it can cause irritation and conjunctivitis.
  9. Exposure to Infectious Agents: Close contact with someone who has a contagious form of conjunctivitis can lead to its transmission.

It’s important to note that pink eye can have different causes, and the appropriate treatment depends on the underlying cause. While many cases of pink eye are mild and resolve on their own, it’s advisable to seek medical attention if you experience severe symptoms, worsening redness, eye pain, changes in vision, or if you suspect an infection. A healthcare provider can accurately diagnose the cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment, which may involve artificial tears, antihistamines, antibiotics (if it’s a bacterial infection), or other interventions depending on the cause.