Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a common and highly contagious illness. The characteristic sign of pink eye is a pink or reddish color on the whites of the eyes. While pink eye can usually be treated at home, medical help is often necessary.
Rapid intervention helps alleviate uncomfortable symptoms like the itching and irritation commonly associated with pink eye. Additionally, early treatment helps prevent the spread of contagious forms of pink eye.
Pink eye can result from various irritants entering one or both eyes. This can include viruses, bacteria, allergens, chemical substances, or foreign objects. These irritants can cause inflammation of the conjunctiva—the thin, transparent membrane lining the eyeballs and eyelids.
In newborns, pink eye can happen as the result of a partially unopened or blocked tear duct.
Look for key pink eye symptoms in one or both eyes:
Redness in the whites of the eye(s)
Itchiness, irritation, or a gritty feeling in the eye(s)
Discharge that forms a crust while sleeping
Conditions like uveitis, dry eye syndrome, and corneal abrasions present symptoms similar to pink eye. Professional medical advice can help prevent eye conditions from getting worse.
Distinguishing between viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can be challenging. In viral pink eye, watery discharge is common. Bacterial pink eye can cause a thicker discharge, along with swelling and pain. Your healthcare provider can help determine what’s causing your pink eye.
Viral pink eye is contagious for as long as your symptoms are present. If your pink eye is bacterial, your contagious period will end about 24 hours after you start taking antibiotics.
Pink eye is not contagious when it is caused by other irritants, like allergies or foreign bodies.
Pink eye often resolves in 2-3 weeks with rest and at-home care. If you have pink eye, stop wearing contact lenses immediately until your symptoms have resolved. To relieve your symptoms, you can try artificial tears, cold or warm compresses, and cleaning your eyelids with a wet cloth. However, if your symptoms don’t seem to be getting better, it’s best to consult a doctor.
If home remedies aren’t helping your pink eye, a medical provider may be able to prescribe helpful medications. For bacterial pink eye, swift relief can come with antibiotic treatment as directed by a healthcare professional. For pink eye caused by the herpes simplex virus, antiviral medication can help. Finally, allergy medications can help clear up pink eye cases caused by allergies.
Most pink eye cases heal without medical intervention. However, pink eye and similar conditions can lead to severe eye infections or other complications. If your symptoms are concerning or getting worse, please see a medical provider.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has up-to-date information about a wide range of illnesses affecting the U.S. population. See their information on conjunctivitis (pink eye) to learn more.
When it comes to your eyes, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. While pink eye complications are uncommon, vision damage can occur. It’s particularly important to visit your doctor or WellNow Urgent Care for the following symptoms:
Changes in your vision
Intense eye redness
Symptoms that are getting worse or aren’t improving
Additionally, newborns and people with weakened immune systems should get medical care at the first sign of pink eye.
For pink eye and other medical conditions, the best results come with a professional diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. Find a WellNow Urgent Care Center or talk to a medical provider online today.
This medical information has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Robert Birenbaum, Chief Medical Officer for WellNow Urgent Care.
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