Suzanne Albrecht, PharmD, MSLIS


US Pharmacist 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the conjunctiva, is commonly referred to as "pink eye" or "red eye."[1,2] Although the actual incidence is unknown, the condition is one of the most frequent causes of patient self-referral.[3]

The conjunctiva is a thin tissue extending from the limbus of the eye to the eyelid margin. The three parts of the conjunctiva are the bulbar conjunctiva (covering the anterior portion of the sclera), the palpebral, or tarsal, conjunctiva (lining the inner surface of the eyelid), and the conjunctival sac (space bounded by the bulbar and tarsal conjunctivae). The conjunctiva contains mast cells (MCs) and other inflammatory cells.[4]

Conjunctivitis may be caused by one or more of several factors. Allergens, irritants, mechanical abrasions, bacteria, and viruses all can cause inflammation of the conjunctiva; for appropriate treatment, it is important that the etiologic agent be identified.[1,5] Most cases of conjunctivitis are self-limited, and the condition rarely causes permanent vision loss or structural damage.[3] This article will discuss three common classes of conjunctivitis: allergic, viral, and bacterial.