10 Eye-grabbing Causes of Pink Eye

Itchy, watery, red eyes are seriously no fun. They’re even less fun when they result in pink eye.

Also known as conjunctivitis, this condition can be quickly spread from one person to another, which makes it a considerable health concern, especially for younger children. Here are the most common causes of pink eye to look out for…

10. Wearing Contact Lenses

Young man putting contact lens in his eye, closeup
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Contact lenses pose some considerable risks for people with sensitive eyes. They can trap irritants and make spreading bacteria from hand to eye much more likely, which can result in pink eye. Always make sure to follow the instructions for your contacts to manage this risk. 

One of the most common ways to contract pink eye, though, is by being around others… 

9. Exposure to Infected Individuals

Close up one annoyed red blood human girl eye, health eye affected by conjunctivitis or after flu cold allergy. Looking camera. Disease treatment medicine health concept.
VIDI Studio/Shutterstock.com

One of the most common causes of pink eye is an infection spread from one person to another. Even worse, infected individuals can spread pink eye without even knowing it. Direct physical contact with the infected eye or secondary exposure, like sharing a pair of glasses, can spread conjunctivitis rapidly.

Pink eye can also be caused by… 

8. Exposure to Allergens 

Sick dejected young man rubs eyes with handkerchief, has allergy to seasonal flowers or plants, cries unhappily, being tired of fighting against allergens, needs good treatments, stands indoor
WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock.com

If you’re prone to allergies, then you might be more prone to getting pink eye, too. Allergic reactions can result in swelling, redness, and discomfort associated with pink eye. This type of conjunctivitis is not contagious, but should still be treated by either seeing a medical provider or trying some over-the-counter treatments for pink eye. 

Unfortunately, there are more serious medical conditions that can cause pink eye…

7. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Close up cropped image of a young woman with hands holding her crotch lower abdomen isolated on blue background

Certain sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea, can cause pink eye in rare cases. Though rare, these cases are pretty serious, as the infection infects multiple parts of the body. Pink eye caused by an STI should be treated by a medical provider immediately. This rare cause of conjunctivitis can quickly cause some serious damage to eyesight if left unchecked. 

More commonly, pink eye can be a result of the following…  

6. Bacteria

Man touches his eyes with microbes coronavirus. Patient has eye damage with viral infection. Rapid spread COVID-19. Early isolation measures. Mild form disease. Case infection through touch

When bacteria are introduced into the eye, it can quickly cause the swelling and discomfort that people associate with pink eye. This variety is particularly hazardous, as it can be easily transmitted from person to person. 

When pink eye strikes, many people reach for eye drops. While eye drops help most, some people may find that they actually create more problems… 

5. Eye Drops

Asian young woman uses eye drops for eye treatment. Redness, Dry Eyes, Allergy and Eye Itching

Some individuals are sensitive to the chemicals in eye drops, which can make treatment difficult and even cause pink eye. Each eye drop brand contains a different mixture of chemicals that can contribute to this risk. Neutral eye drops that contain only a saline solution are the safest for people with sensitive eyes. 

Another common risk factor spikes during summer months… 

4. Swimming

Young boy rubbing his eyes wearing goggles after a swim in the pool.

Going swimming during hot summer months is one of the best ways to cool off, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to contract pink eye.

An unclean swimming pool is like a large, shared bathtub full of bacteria. These bacteria can easily transmit from eye to eye in such an environment. Of course, having too many harsh cleaning chemicals like chlorine can also trigger pink eye.

Another common source of pink eye is right in your own home…

3. Taking a Shower

White person in shower rubbing shampoo in their eyes

Showers are one of the best ways to stay clean. So, it may come as a surprise that they can also contribute to your risk for pink eye.

It’s not the shower itself that increases the risk, but rather the water and the chemicals that go with it. Namely, shampoo can get into your eyes and increase your risk of pink eye. Furthermore, water that isn’t properly filtered can also carry bacteria and allergens that can increase your conjunctivitis risk. 

Another cause worth keeping in mind is… 

2. Foreign Objects

baby boy plays in a sandbox of the outside and copy space. baby rubs his eyes by hand with the sand. baby rubs eyes with his dirty hand.

Dirt, debris, and even your fingers can contact the surface of the eye and contribute to your pink eye risk.

Foreign objects can cause pink eye for two main reasons. The first is that they can easily transmit bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents underneath the surface of the eye. This transfer can lead to infections. The second is that trauma of a foreign object touching the eye can also trigger pink eye. 

Age is also a risk factor for this condition, although it doesn’t work quite the way you might think… 

1. Age

Sad asian child girl is crying and rubbing her eyes with her hands

When we think of age as a risk factor for illness, we tend to think older ages are at higher risks. However, with pink eye, this trend is actually in reverse.

Young children and infants are at a much higher risk for pink eye than adults are. Firstly, children are much more likely to practice poor hygiene, meaning they are more likely to bring foreign objects and bacteria into contact with their eyes. This fact also means they are more likely to contract it from others.

If you suspect you might have pink eye, there are steps you can take to help yourself feel better, like seeing your doctor. Your medical provider can help you spot the causes and get the treatment you need to make a quick recovery. 

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