I spy with my little crusty eye…………..

clipart image of eye


Often students come in to be evaluated for “pink eye”…but what does it mean if you have redness, irritation, and/or crusty eye(s)?

And what do you need to do??????



Why is my eye red?

  • Although there is more than one cause of a red eye, the most common cause is conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a common eye condition that affects both children and adults.  It is caused by inflammation of the conjunctiva which makes the blood vessels visible giving the eye a red/pink appearance.

I woke up and my eye was crusted shut.  I need an antibiotic right?

  • Actually, most cases of conjunctivitis are caused by a virus. The most common virus to cause conjunctivitis is the adenovirus which also causes the common cold. Antibiotics will only treat conjunctivitis if it is caused by bacteria.  It is more likely to be bacterial if you only have symptoms in one eye and you have thick yellow, white or green eye discharge that recurs throughout the day.  Conjunctivitis can also be caused by allergies and irritants.

Do I need to see a healthcare provider?

  • You should seek care if you wear contacts, have moderate to severe pain, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, intense redness, weakened immune system, symptoms that do not improve, symptoms that worsen, or if you have a pre-existing eye condition. You can make an appointment at Student Health Services online, by phone, or in person to have your eye evaluated.

Are there any treatments I can try at home?

  • If you do not have the symptoms listed above, there are a few things you can try to relieve your symptoms including over the counter (OTC) antihistamine/decongestant eye drops, OTC eye lubricant drops and warm or cold compresses. The OTC eye drops can be picked up without a prescription at any pharmacy including the pharmacy at Student Health.  You should also avoid wearing contacts until your symptoms have resolved.

Can I still go to class?

  • Absolutely! Even though it is very contagious if it is caused by a virus or bacteria, you can prevent spreading it your peers with good hand hygiene. It is spread by direct contact, contact with secretions, or contact with contaminated objects/surfaces. Avoid touching and rubbing your eyes. Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid sharing makeup and eyeglasses.


References: CDC, UpToDate