Pink Eye

Pink eye is generally a harmless inflammation of the eye, however it can be very irritating and it’s important to understand the condition and to know what steps to take.

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Pink eye, known medically as conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the transparent layer that covers the inner eyelid and the outer part of the eyeball. This is a common condition which causes a red irritated eye with discharge. It usually passes on its own, or with medication when necessary, within a week or so. There are three main types of conjunctivitis - viral, bacterial or allergic,and depending on the type of pink eye there are good treatment methods.

Both viral conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis are very contagious in nature. It is typically spread through indirect or direct contact with a person who has pink eye which could lead to the spread of infection in one or both eyes. However, it does not cause any serious consequences to the health of the individual if it is treated and diagnosed immediately. Pink eye is extremely common in children because it can spread in class due to close contact and also children tend to be less hygienic than adults are.

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When to Seek Immediate Care

If pink eye is identified in a newborn, immediate care from an eye doctor should be given to avoid any long term damage to the baby’s vision. 

If you have pink eye along with any of the following conditions, please schedule an eye exam right away with your eye doctor, as it is important to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment:

  • Pain in the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision that does not go away when carefully wiping away discharge
  • Symptoms that get worse or if bacterial pink eye doesn’t improve with antibiotics
  • Weak immune system due to various medical conditions, such as a person going through cancer treatment
Types of Pink Eye

Types of Pink Eye

The most common type of pink eye is viral conjunctivitis and it is also usually the most contagious. It often starts in one eye and causes tears and watery discharge. After a few days, it starts infecting the other eye as well. 

The second major type of pink eye is bacterial. Like the viral strains, this also starts in one eye and gradually shows up in the other one as well, but this strain causes the release of a lot of pus and mucus from the eye. It is important to note that there are types of bacteria which cause pink eye and yet do not lead to pus from the eyes.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and is caused by an allergic reaction so it’s essential to determine the trigger to avoid future allergic reactions.



The most common symptoms of pink eye experienced by patients are as follows:

  • Redness
  • Severe itchiness
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Gritty feeling
  • Excess tearing
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For all types of conjunctivitis it’s important to stop wearing contact lenses and makeup until the conjunctivitis goes away. If you were wearing disposable contact lenses when the infection started, it is advised to throw them away and open a new pack when it’s safe to start wearing contact lenses again. If you are using reusable lenses, please sterilize them very carefully before using again. Be careful to wash your hands and anything else that comes into contact with your eyes such as washcloths, pillow cases, and makeup brushes in order to maintain healthy eyes and prevent future irritations. Do not touch or rub the infected eye with your hands. Tissues can be used for wiping away discharge, in case the need arises. For all types of conjunctivitis, some people find over-the-counter artificial tears helpful to reduce symptoms. 

Viral conjunctivitis is not treated medicinally, but will heal on its own within a week or two. If it's a bacterial pink eye, which usually has more pus than the other types, antibacterial eye drops will be prescribed. For both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, warm compress can provide relief and help reduce inflammation. You can use a warm washcloth to gently clean away the mucus from your eye. To treat pink eye caused by allergies, use allergy medicine and you can reduce irritation by using a cool, damp washcloth. 


Cleanliness is extremely important to keep your eyes clean and to avoid future infection. Frequent hand washing with soap and water is recommended, especially before touching your eyes. Eye makeup, lenses or eye drops should not be shared with others.

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Common Questions

Many of our patients who have red eyes wonder if they have an eye infection. Just because you have red, irritated or swollen eyes does not necessarily mean you have pink eye which is medically known as conjunctivitis. It is also possible for your symptoms to be caused by a wide variety of conditions such as seasonal allergies, extended use or overuse of contact lenses, dry eye, marijuana use, styes, extended use of computers or phones, iritis, chalazion (inflammation of the eyelid gland), or blepharitis (inflammation or infection of the eyelid skin). None of these conditions are contagious. Another common example is red eye that is due to a lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep decreases oxygen that is available for the eyes; this causes blood vessels to dilate and give the appearance of being red or bloodshot. If your pink or red eye symptoms persist for longer than a day, you should see an optometrist.
Pink eye is generally contagious, especially in the case of viral or bacterial infections. It can be spread through direct contact with discharge from the eye, or through shared objects such as towels or pillows. To prevent the spread of pink eye, it is important to practice good hygiene, avoid touching your eyes, and avoid sharing personal items.
The duration of pink eye can vary, but most cases resolve within a week or two. Viral pink eye tends to resolve more quickly than bacterial pink eye, which may take longer to clear up.
Pink eye is typically diagnosed by an eye doctor during an eye examination. The provider will examine the eye and may take a sample of the discharge to test for the presence of bacteria or viruses. In some cases, allergy testing may be done to determine the cause of the pink eye.
If you have pink eye, it is generally best to stay home until your symptoms have improved. Pink eye can be contagious, so it is important to avoid spreading the infection to others. If you must go to work or school while you have pink eye, it is important to follow proper hygiene practices, such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding close contact with others.
In some cases, pink eye can cause discomfort and irritation, which can lead to headaches. However, pink eye is not the direct cause of headaches. If you are experiencing headaches in addition to pink eye, it is important to see a doctor to determine the cause and get proper treatment.
In most cases, pink eye is not serious and does not cause vision loss. However, if pink eye is caused by an infection or other underlying health condition, it can lead to more serious complications, such as vision loss. It is important to see a doctor if you have pink eye and are experiencing vision changes or other unusual symptoms.
Pink eye is usually not accompanied by a fever. However, if you have pink eye and also have a fever, it is important to see a doctor to determine the cause and get proper treatment. A fever may indicate a more serious infection or underlying health condition.
People who work in close proximity with others, such as in schools, daycare centers, and healthcare facilities, and those with weakened immune systems, allergies, and contact lens wear are more likely to develop pink eye. Children are also more prone to developing pink eye due to their close proximity to others and their tendency to touch their eyes and face more frequently.
Yes, there are definitely ways to avoid getting pink eye if one or more people in your house has the infection. You must frequently wash your hands, especially before touching your eyes, and avoid sharing towels, linen or anything that comes in contact with that individual’s eyes. Also, try to clean the surfaces that are frequently touched by the infected person. Although this does not guarantee that you would not get pink eye, it would surely prevent the spread of the infection to a large extent.
If you don't have other symptoms such as fever, you may be allowed to go to school or work, but only with your doctor’s approval. It’s best to stay home if you’re able to, especially if your daily activities involve close contact with others since viral and bacterial pink eye is so contagious. When the obvious signs of pink eye are gone, you can return to work or school safely. The symptoms typically go away between 3 to 7 days, but it could take longer. You could also consult with an eye specialist before returning back to work or school. A rough guideline of when you can return to school or work, depending on the type of pink eye, is as follows: For viral pink eye - after 2 days to approximately a week For bacterial pink eye - after 24 hours of taking prescribed antibiotics For allergic pink eye -no need to stay home as it’s not a contagious infection
Pink eye goes away on its own if it’s caused by a virus or an allergic reaction so in that case there is no need to see the doctor. If it’s an allergic pink eye, there are over-the-counter allergy medications that can help. If it’s bacterial pink eye, then you should get prescription antibiotic eye drops from your doctor. Antibiotics only help to cure pink eye if it’s caused by bacteria. If you have pink eye and you’re unsure of the cause, it is recommended that you see your doctor or eye doctor who can diagnose and help treat it. You should see your optometrist if you have pink eye and any of the following: Pain in your eye(s) Light sensitivity Blurry vision, even after carefully wiping away any discharge Your symptoms aren’t going away or are getting worse If you have been prescribed antibiotic eye drops for bacterial pink eye and after 24 hours it’s not helping In addition to pink eye, you have another eye condition You’re immunocompromised
Due to the fact that there are many different types of pink eye or conjunctivitis, it is very hard to determine the length of time a person with pink eye is contagious and how long they need to stay home. The best recommendation is to wait for the symptoms to resolve before going back to school or work which could be anywhere between 3 to 7 days. Symptoms include redness, irritation in the eyes and discharge from the eyes. In schools or day care centers, children are typically in close contact with each other and that is the primary reason that the risk of the infection spreading from one child to the other is very high. The majority of schools would not allow the child to come back until the symptoms are cleared up. Be prepared to keep the child at home until the infection is completely resolved. Pink eye that occurs due to a bacterial infection is usually treated through eye drops. If the child is on antibiotic eye drops for a minimum of 24 hours, then the child is not contagious anymore and may return to school. If the pink eye was caused by a viral infection then you need to let it run its course as there is practically no treatment for it. Symptoms can be relieved through lubricating eye drops and warm compress. Children should not be sent to school until all the symptoms are resolved. When pink eye is caused by an allergy then it is not at all contagious. Allergy eye drops can easily help in relieving the symptoms within a few hours.
If your newborn has pink eye, known as neonatal conjunctivitis, you should visit your doctor immediately. This type of pink eye can be caused by irritation, an infection or a blocked tear duct and the doctor can diagnose the cause. If it’s caused by an infection it could be dangerous and requires immediate treatment. Pink eye in a newborn can be a serious infection and should be treated instantly before it has a long-lasting impact on the sight of the child.
Treatments for pink eye are primarily dependent on the type of infection you have. Some possibilities include: An antibiotic eye drop for bacterial infections Most cases of viral pink eye need to run its course and the body fights the infection off on its own. In severe cases of viral pink eye due to specific viruses, such as herpes simplex or varicella zoster, the doctor may prescribe an antiviral eye drop For allergic conjunctivitis - allergy eye drops containing antihistamine can be used Try not to self diagnose yourself as soon as you see symptoms of pink eye. Schedule a consultation with your eye doctor to get the right treatment plan and find out the exact cause of the infection.
Yes, disposable lenses that were worn by the individual before or while having pink eye or an infection, should be immediately thrown out. But if you have hard lenses, make sure you clean them properly before using them again. Individuals who currently have pink eye are very unlikely to use lenses while they have symptoms of redness, itchiness, watery discharge etc. You can easily avoid eye infections if you use sterile contact lens solutions and store your contacts carefully. Washing and properly cleaning your hands before insertion and removal of lens is highly recommended.
Pink eye can be caused by allergies, bacterial infections or viral infections. The most common symptoms of pink eye or conjunctivitis may include one or more of the following: Tears Itchiness Pain in the Eyes Discharge from the eyes Swelling Blurry vision A feeling of a foreign particle in the eye Sensitivity to brightness or light
Sometimes, pink eye does go away on its own, especially with viral conjunctivitis or allergies. Depending on the type of infection you have, it may take a few days to a couple of weeks for the infection to fully clear up. If it’s a bacterial pink eye, you need prescription antibiotic eye drops from your doctor. You can relieve the symptoms of all types of pink eye using over-the-counter artificial tear eye drops. Warm compress can help for viral and bacterial pink eye and cold compress is recommended for allergic pink eye. If you have a frequent condition of pink eye then you might want to consider a discussion with your doctor about the possible causes and the best preventive measures.
Pink eye usually lasts between 3 to 7 days. With some types of infections, the course of time could extend to a few weeks.
If a family member has viral or bacterial pink eye, then you need to be very careful as the condition can be extremely contagious. You should try to avoid contact or proximity with people who have pink eye until it is cleared up. Some helpful precautions include: Refrain from touching the eyes or mouth Wash your hands properly Special care of cleanliness should be taken before insertion and removal of contact lenses Regularly wash clothes, pillowcases, towels etc. Restrict going out of the house if you or a loved one has pink eye Don’t share makeup or other things that come in contact with the eyes Swim goggles are recommended when swimming Practise good hygiene
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Pink eye is an extremely common inflammation of the front layer of the eye which causes red irritated eyes. There are different causes for pink eye and identifying the cause allows for the proper treatment. Pink eye usually goes away within a few weeks. If you have pink eye and the symptoms are not improving or are getting worse after 24 hours, please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor who can properly diagnose the cause and provide the appropriate treatment.

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