Suppurative conjunctivitis is a type of bacterial conjunctivitis, or pink eye. It involves suppuration, which describes a painless but large amount of persistent eye discharge.

“Conjunctivitis” refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva in your eye. Pink eye can develop from nonallergic, allergic, or infectious causes, including viral or bacterial infections.

Aside from the different types of infections that may cause pink eye, viral and bacterial infections also cause slightly different symptoms. Bacterial conjunctivitis is known for causing more discharge, or pus, from the affected eye.

Suppurative conjunctivitis means you have a bacterial pink eye infection that’s causing much more discharge than typical.

Learn more about suppuration in conjunctivitis, including symptoms, causes, and treatments to discuss with a doctor.

Symptoms of suppurative conjunctivitis include many of the same ones you might experience with non-suppurative bacterial conjunctivitis.

You may have:

  • redness
  • crustiness
  • swelling
  • irritation
  • pain
  • blurry vision
  • thick, pus-filled discharge

With suppurative conjunctivitis, the eye discharge may be thicker and more persistent than other watery discharge in pink eye caused by viruses or allergies. Your eyelids may stick together due to large amounts of discharge.

You might also experience symptoms of an ear or respiratory infection, depending on the type of bacterial infection you have and its severity.

Bacterial infections cause bacterial conjunctivitis. Haemophilus influenzae bacteria are the most common cause of acute cases.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a type of infection common in people who wear contact lenses, may also cause it. Pseudomonas aeruginosa can also lead to inflammation of the cornea, called keratitis.

More chronic or severe cases are often linked to Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. In fact, doctors presume suppurative conjunctivitis in newborns is caused by maternal gonorrhea. It’s treated immediately as such.

Another possible cause of suppurative conjunctivitis is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a type of drug-resistant infection that can lead to pink eye. It may also cause other eye problems, such as:

These bacterial infections are transmitted via close contact with someone who has the infection.

You may also have a higher risk of bacterial conjunctivitis if you:

  • wear contact lenses
  • have a health condition that compromises your immune system
  • go to school or work in a crowded environment

According to a 2022 meta-analysis, most cases of bacterial conjunctivitis are seen in children. Viral conjunctivitis tends to be more common in adults.

Nevertheless, if you’re an adult with pink eye symptoms as well as suppuration, you may consider talking with a doctor to rule out a possible bacterial infection.

In general, bacterial conjunctivitis may clear up on its own within 1 to 2 weeks. However, talk with a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. They may prescribe antibiotics for severe infections.

Like other types of pink eye, long-term complications of this condition are rare. However, if the underlying infection is left untreated, suppurative conjunctivitis could lead to vision loss and permanent damage to your cornea.

A doctor can diagnose suppurative conjunctivitis with a physical exam. They will ask about your symptoms and evaluate possible signs of pink eye.

Thick pus in the eye, rather than watery or clear discharge, is an indicator of suppurative conjunctivitis.

A doctor may also take a small sample of your eye discharge and test it to determine the type of bacterial infection you might have. This is done by collecting a sample of the discharge with a cotton swab before sealing it in a container. The sample is sent to a laboratory for microbiological cultures and Gram’s stain testing.

Suppurative conjunctivitis stems from a bacterial infection. It may need prescription medications.

In addition to medical treatment, some home remedies may help alleviate symptoms as you recover from this infection.

Consider speaking with a doctor about the following options:

Home remedies

A doctor may advise you to stay home for 1 to 3 days, or until your eye infection clears. They may also recommend using artificial tears in your eyes a few times per day to help reduce irritation and clear the discharge.

Additionally, cool compresses may help soothe eye symptoms. Try applying a clean, wet washcloth or paper towel to your eyelids to remove crusted debris. You can do this as often as needed.

Medical treatment

While some cases of bacterial conjunctivitis get better on their own, severe infections likely require prescription antibiotics. Treatment may involve:

  • antibiotic eye drops
  • oral antibiotic tablets
  • antibiotic injection

For severe pain, ask a doctor whether you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Aleve, Advil). Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that may possibly help reduce swelling.

Good hygiene practices and avoiding others who are sick may help reduce your risk of developing bacterial infections that may lead to suppurative conjunctivitis.

Wash your hands often, especially after being in public places and going to the bathroom. Avoid touching your eyes with unwashed hands.

If you wear contacts, make sure to take the lenses out before going to sleep. Clean your contacts regularly with a disinfecting solution recommended by your eye doctor.

Suppurative conjunctivitis is a type of bacterial pink eye. While not a commonly used term, suppurative conjunctivitis indicates bacterial conjunctivitis with large amounts of eye discharge.

Certain bacterial infections may be more likely to cause suppurative conjunctivitis than others. But the overall symptoms, causes, and treatments are similar to general bacterial pink eye.

If you have pink eye symptoms with a large amount of discharge, consider speaking with a doctor about the possibility of bacterial conjunctivitis with suppuration.

A doctor can advise you on next steps, such as further testing, taking time off work to avoid transmitting it to others, and possible prescription treatments.