Eye Drops for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Tatheer Zehra Zaidi   by Tatheer Zehra Zaidi, M. Pharma    Last updated on April 22, 2021,

eye drops for pink eye

Conjunctivitis Treatment (Pink Eye Remedies)

There are various home remedies for pink eye that can soothe pink eye symptoms. It involves cleaning of the eye primarily.

To reduce the discomfort of pink eye, you can apply a warm compress for about 10 minutes, three to five times a day. Artificial tears that are free of preservatives can be applied a few times in a day. You should not use prescription medicines such as steroid eye drops or other medications without a doctor's prescription.

There are different types of pink eye conditions caused by different bacteria or virus etc. Therefore, treatment of conjunctivitis varies based on the cause and type of the conjunctivitis you may have. Read about treatment of various types of conjunctivitis.

This article is primarily focused on the treatment of pink eye (conjunctivitis) with the use of eye drops and the various medicines available as eye drops for pink eye.

See also: What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Conjunctivitis?

See also: What are the Symptoms and Complications of Conjunctivitis?

Eye drops for pink eye (Pink eye medicine): What eye drops can I use for pink eye?

Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) can be caused by bacteria, allergies, or viruses. Severe cases of bacterial conjunctivitis are usually treated with ophthalmic antibiotic eye drops or ointments.

You should consult a specialized eye doctor (ophthalmologist) if you experience pink eye symptoms instead of making a self diagnosis and using over the counter medicines. Pink eye can be caused by several difference sources and each of them may require a different treatment.

Medicines and eye drops for pink eye caused by bacteria (bacterial conjunctivitis)

Bacterial conjunctivitis often makes your eyes red and sore, with a thick, yellow, sticky discharge. These infections should be treated with prescription eye drops from your doctor.

Medicines that are generally used to treat bacterial conjunctivitis are:

  • Ciloxan (ciprofloxacin)
  • Ocuflox (ofloxacin)
  • AzaSite (azithromycin)
  • Romycin (erythromycin)
  • Quixin
  • Bacticin (bacitracin)
  • Polytrim (polymyxin/trimethoprim)
  • Iquix (levofloxacin)
  • Ak-Tracin
  • AK-Poly-Bac
  • Ocumycin
  • Polycin-B
  • Bleph (sulfacetamide sodium)
  • Moxeza (moxifloxacin)
  • Polytracin Ophthalmic
  • Zymar (gatifloxacin)
  • Polysporin Ophthalmic (polymyxin-bacitracin)
  • Besivance (besifloxacin)

Medicines and eye drops for pink eye caused by allergies (Allergic conjunctivitis)

Allergic conjunctivitis is the most common cause of eye redness and itching. Allergic conjunctivitis causes swollen eyelids and watery, bloodshot eyes. It is however not contagious.

Generally, over-the-counter lubricants and antihistamine eye drops for pink eyes can provide relief. If the pink eye symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe stronger eye drops or certain oral medications.

Medicines that are generally used to treat allergic conjunctivitis include antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers. Few examples of these medicines for pinks eye are:

  • Optivar (azelastine HCl)
  • Alomide (lodoxamide tromethamine)
  • Pataday (olopatadine)
  • Alamast (pemirolast)
  • Bepreve (bepotastine)
  • Elestat (epinastine)
  • Patanol
  • Lastacaft (alcaftadine)
  • Emadine (emedastine)
  • Ketotifen (ketotifen fumarate)
  • Opticrom (cromolyn sodium)
  • Alocril (nedocromil)

Medicines and eye drops for pink eye caused by virus (Viral conjunctivitis)

Viral conjunctivitis can be highly contagious. Some cases of viral pink eye go away on their own, but severe cases of pink eye can cause discomfort and require medicine. Common symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are red, watery and sore eyes with a clear or whitish eye discharge. This may also cause blurry vision.

Viral conjunctivitis is usually treated with over-the-counter topical antihistamines and decongestants (such as Naphcon-A, Ocuhist). Specialized antiviral treatments are not usually needed for treating viral conjunctivitis.

See also: Prevention and Treatment of Conjunctivitis

See also: Diagnosis of Pink Eye

What are the common side effects of pinkeye medications?

The side effects of using eye drops for pink eye (conjunctivitis) can be minor or serious. These may include, such as:

  • burning sensation
  • blurred vision after applying eye ointment for some time
  • temporary stinging
  • rash
  • itching
  • pain
  • swelling in or around the eyes
  • vision problems
  • burning eyes
  • redness

If the eye drops for pink eyes contains antihistamines, you may experience these side effects:

  • dry mouth
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • restlessness
  • trouble urinating
  • blurred vision
  •  confusion

If the eye drops for your pink eyes contain mast cell stabilizers, you may experience these side effects:

  • burning
  • stinging
  • blurred vision after their application

Antibiotic eye drops for pink eye patients

A majority of pink eye patients are prescribed antibiotic eye drops, though they are rarely needed to treat this common eye problem.

Pinkeye affects more than 5 million people in the United States every year. There are three types of pink eye condition: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis. Most cases of pink eye are caused by viral infections or allergies, which do not respond to antibiotics. Artificial tears and warm compresses and other treatments as mentioned above may help relieve the symptoms of pink eye.

Antibiotics are often not necessary even for bacterial conjunctivitis because most cases of bacterial conjunctivitis are mild and resolve on their own within seven to 14 days even without any treatment.

Patients are generally unaware of the harmful side effects of antibiotics and may falsely believe that these eye drops are necessary for the treatment of conjunctivitis. Lack of education is the major reason for this false belief. Educating patients about conjunctivitis and problems with self-medication may help to dispel such misconceptions about the condition and the use of antibiotics for pink eye.

Is there any over the counter eye drops for pink eye?

Over the counter (OTC) decongestant eye drops such as naphazoline eye drops can help get rid of the redness caused by bacterial conjunctivitis, but it cannot treat the infection.

How long does it take for eye drops for pink eye to work?

Topical antibiotic ointments or eye drops work in pink eye cases only if the source of infection is bacterial. In this case, it takes about 1-2 days for the eye drops or ointment to start working and for the infected person to no longer be contagious. However, if the source is viral or allergic, antibiotics don’t work and should not be prescribed.

Tatheer Zehra Zaidi

Tatheer Zehra Zaidi is a clinical pharmacist and pharmacologist with a master’s degree in pharmacy practice. She aims to deliver a positive contribution in the field of healthcare and research. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Jamia Hamdard New Delhi and then joined Spirant Communication Private LTD as a Medical content writer.


Currently she is working at Maxinov Solutions Private LTD as a research associate and is associated with DiseaseFix as a medical content writer. Tatheer’s areas of interest include clinical research, clinical trial disclosure, and pharmacovigilance.

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