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Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

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.

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What is pink eye?

Pink eye is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white parts of your eyes. Pink eye may be caused by viruses, bacteria or allergens.

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 often resolves on its own,” says Dr. Robert Biernbaum, “but it’s a good idea to get treatment early. By getting professional medical help at WellNow Urgent Care, you can rule out other illnesses and prevent complications. Our goal is always to give you the best possible recovery.”

What causes 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.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Eye irritation and other conditions can present similarly to pink eye, paying attention to your symptoms can help you determine when to see a doctor and understand what type of treatment to seek out.
  • Redness in the whites of the eye(s)

  • Itchiness, irritation, or a gritty feeling in the eye(s)

  • Excessive tearing

  • Light sensitivity

  • Discharge that forms a crust while sleeping

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.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and is caused by your body reacting to an allergen or irritant. The primary symptom of this form of pink eye is itching.

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.

WellNow’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Biernbaum, advises, “Some serious conditions can look like pink eye. We don’t want those conditions progressing and causing complications like vision changes. If your symptoms are bothersome and are not going away, it’s best to get it checked out by a medical provider.”

Pink Eye Treatment

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.

Pink Eye FAQs

Viral pink eye is contagious 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.

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.

Early diagnosis and treatment help to limit the spread of pink eye and protects people around you from also getting it. You can also help prevent pink eye by following these precautions:

  • Wash your hands frequently

  • Avoid touching your eyes

  • Only use clean towels and washcloths

  • Wash your pillowcases and bed sheets often

  • Don’t share eye makeup or eye care items

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.

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When should you visit urgent care for pink eye treatment?

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:

  • Eye pain

  • Changes in your vision

  • Light sensitivity

  • 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. Check in online or walk in to a WellNow location nearest you.

This medical information has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Robert Birenbaum, Chief Medical Officer for WellNow Urgent Care.


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Illnesses and Symptoms We Treat

WellNow Urgent Care treats a variety of illnesses, infections and diseases along with their
associated symptoms. If you are feeling uncomfortable or unwell, our dedicated medical
team is prepared to deliver a personalized and tailored treatment plan to help you get
better, faster.

This list contains our most commonly treated illnesses and symptoms. If you are
experiencing an illness not listed or are unsure of the source of your discomfort, visit a
WellNow location near you
or start a virtual care session.

A - E

Abscesses
Allergies
Arthritis
Asthma
Bronchitis
Common Cold
COVID - 19
Dehydration
Ear infections