Is Pink Eye an STD?

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a highly contagious infection of the eye(s) that occurs when the eye’s membrane (called the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed. The conjunctiva is the eye’s mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids.

Pink Eye STD

So, is pink eye an STD?

In short, the answer is that sometimes pink eye is caused by an STD.

Pink eye can be caused by a sundry of irritants– bacteria, viruses, allergens, and contact lenses or prosthetic eyes.

A conjunctivitis infection can occur from some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including gonorrhea and chlamydia. You can also get a herpes infection of the eye (known as herpes simplex keratitis) by touching a cold sore or fever blister, then touching your eye.

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Both gonorrhea and chlamydia are bacterial infections and can cause bacterial conjunctivitis. Although rare, gonorrhea can cause a serious bacterial form of conjunctivitis that may lead to blindness if not treated early on. Similarly, chlamydia can also cause pink eye in adults and even babies during birth. Exposure to either of these STDs during birth can cause newborns to contract these diseases from an infected mother; the eyes are susceptible candidates for these bacteria.

In newborns, pink eye is medically referred to as ophthalmia neonatorum or neonatal conjunctivitis. It is a very serious condition that can lead to scarring of the eyes or vision loss.

Viral conjunctivitis, as the name suggests, is caused by a virus and is very contagious. The common cold is typically the viral culprit of pink eye, but it can also develop from the herpes virus.

pink eye std

Other types of pink eye stem from:

Allergic conjunctivitis: This form of pink eye is caused by allergens like smoke and pollen.
Chemical exposure: Exposure to chemicals or an irritation from eye drops or contact solution.
Giant papillary conjunctivitis: This form is caused by an outside source that is foreign to the body and most frequently occurs from wearing contact lenses, but it can be caused from a prosthetic or artificial eye.

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Medically Reviewed by on September 11, 2022

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Author: Nick Corlis

Nick Corlis is a writer, marketer, and designer. He graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, with a degree in Digital Communications. Nick is proud to be able to help eliminate the stigma of STD testing through his writing and is always trying to advocate the importance of your sexual health. Before STDcheck, his favorite way to develop his writing skills was by accepting various writing jobs in college and maintaining multiple blogs. Nick wears many hats here at STDcheck, but specifically enjoys writing accurate, well-researched content that is not only informative and relatable but sometimes also contains memes. When not writing, Nick likes to race cars and go-karts, eat Japanese food, and play games on his computer.