Home |  Video Library | Podcast Library | e-Newsletters | Classes & Events | About Us | Community Blog | University & Colleges 

Contact Us | 843-792-1414
Patients & Visitors Medical Services Maps & Parking Health Library Health Professionals Careers
Online Services
Health Library
Health Topics A to Z
Clinical Trials & Research
Tests & Procedures
Lab Tests & Results
Health Assessment Tools
Treatment Options
Symptom Checker
How to Use the Symtom Checker
Adult Symptoms
Child Symptoms
When to Call the Doctor
Health e-Newsletters
Podcast Library
Video Library
Health Library
Bookmark Page icon Bookmark | Print this page icon | E-mail icon
Adult Symptoms > > Eye - Pus Or Discharge
Eye - Pus or Discharge


  • Yellow or green discharge (pus) in one or both eyes
  • Dried pus on the eyelids and eyelashes. The eyelashes are especially likely to be matted together following sleep
  • May involve one or both eyes

General Information

  • Conjunctivitis is a medical term that means there is irritation or infection involving the white parts of the outer eye and the area under the eyelids.
  • Caution: Individuals with blurred vision or significant eye pain need to be seen by a physician urgently, as significant eye pain and blurred vision do not generally occur in people with conjunctivitis.
Types of Conjunctivitis:
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis (typically, thick white-yellow or green discharge) requires prescription antibiotic eye drops.
  • Viral conjunctivitis (thin, clear-white discharge) is often difficult to distinguish from bacterial conjunctivitis, thus antibiotic eye drops are often prescribed.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis (itching, clear-white discharge)
  • Chemical conjunctivitis from exposure to chemicals, fumes (eye irritation, tearing)
"Pink-Eye" is the term used when either a bacterial or a viral infection is causing the conjunctivitis. Depending on the severity, symptoms can include:
  • Mild discomfort, burning or irritation of the eye(s)
  • White portions of the eye(s) may or may not be pink or red
  • Eyelids may be puffy due to irritation
  • Tearing

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If


Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You feel weak or very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain or discomfort is more than mild
  • Cloudy spot or sore seen on the cornea (clear center part of the eye)
  • Fever of 103° F (39.4° C) or higher

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think you need to be seen
  • Yellow or green discharge or pus in the eye (Reason: probably needs prescription antibiotic eye drops to treat it)


  1. Reassurance: Pink Eye is a common complication of a cold or it can be acquired from exposure to a child or adult who has had it recently. Pink Eye responds to treatment with antibiotic eye drops and is not harmful to vision.
  2. Eyelid Cleansing:
    • Gently wash eyelids and lashes with warm water and wet cotton balls (or cotton gauze). Remove all the dried and liquid pus.
    • Do this as often as needed.
  3. Contacts:
    • Individuals with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily (Reason: to prevent damage to the cornea).
    • Disinfect the contacts before wearing them again (or discard them if disposable).
  4. Expected Course: With treatment, the yellow discharge should clear up in 3 days. The red eyes may persist for several more days.
  5. Contagiousness: Pink Eye is extremely contagious. Try not to touch your eyes. Wash your hands frequently. Do not share towels.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 9/21/2007

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions LLC; LMS, Inc.

Additional Resources:

 How to use the Adult Health Topics pages
 When to call the doctor
 Reviewers of Clinical Content

Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment.

About This Site   |   Disclaimer   |  Privacy   |   Accessibility   |   Donations   |   Site Map
171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403 1.843.792.1414 | © Medical University of South Carolina
rss feed iconText Messaging iconPodcast Library Follow MUSCHealth on Twitter MUSChealth YouTube Channel