Prim Care. 2015 Sep;42(3):325-45. doi: 10.1016/j.pop.2015.05.001. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


Conjunctivitis is the most common cause of red eye in primary care. The 3 most common types of conjunctivitis are viral, allergic, and bacterial, and they can present in either acute or chronic forms; the age of the patient, time of year and physical examination findings are paramount to distinguish the different types of conjunctivitis. Distinguishing between acute viral and bacterial conjunctivitis remains difficult. Patients with prolonged symptoms, poor response to initial management, or evidence of severe disease should be referred to ophthalmology for consultation.

Keywords: Acute conjunctivitis; Allergic conjunctivitis; Bacterial conjunctivitis; Chronic conjunctivitis; Conjunctivitis; Viral conjunctivitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Oral
  • Administration, Topical
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Conjunctivitis / diagnosis
  • Conjunctivitis / drug therapy
  • Conjunctivitis / microbiology
  • Conjunctivitis / physiopathology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / drug therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Seasons


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Allergic Agents
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antiviral Agents