Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, often called “pink eye," is inflammation or redness of the membrane that covers the eye. Some chemotherapy medications may increase the risk of conjunctivitis. Radiation for some head and neck cancers may also cause conjunctivitis when the eyes are part of the treatment field.

Signs of conjunctivitis are:

  • The whites of the eye(s) are reddened.
  • Redness or swelling of the eyelids.
  • Itchy, scratchy, or watery eyes.
  • Discharge from the eye(s).
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity).

How is conjunctivitis managed?

Most conjunctivitis symptoms go away without treatment. If the conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection, you may be ordered antibiotic eye drops or ointment. You should wash your hands often, especially if you touch your eyes. Other ways to help relieve symptoms:

  • Try to avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
  • Gently wipe your eye with a warm, wet cloth when removing discharge.
  • Cool compresses put on the closed eye may give relief from irritation.
  • Do not wear contact lenses if you have conjunctivitis.
  • Thoroughly clean contact lenses before reusing them.

When should I call my care team?

Call your care provider if you have any of the following:

  • Sudden eye pain.
  • Loss of vision in either eye.
  • Yellow, green, or blood-tinged discharge from your eye, which may suggest infection.

References

Agustoni F, Platania M, Vitali M, Zilembo N, Haspinger E, Sinno V, et al. Emerging toxicities in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer: ocular disorders. Cancer treatment reviews. 2014;40(1):197-203.

Centers for Disease Control. Conjunctivitis. Found at: https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/treatment.html

Kheir WJ, Sniegowski MC, El-Sawy T, Li A, Esmaeli B. Ophthalmic complications of targeted cancer therapy and recently recognized ophthalmic complications of traditional chemotherapy. Survey of ophthalmology. 2014;59(5):493-502

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