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Tag: conjunctivitis

How To Treat Pink Eye at Home

Pink eye is a common eye infection. It is important to quickly recognize it and take action to treat it. Having pinkeye is uncomfortable and may force you to take a day off work or school while seeking treatment.

Pink eye is a common infection, especially in young children, because it is so contagious. It affects about 6 million people in the United States each year.1

What is Pink Eye?

Pinkeye, a subtype of conjunctivitis, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the clear membrane covering the surface of the sclera (white part of the eye) and inner eyelids.

Identifying the Type of Pink Eye

Viruses, bacteria, and allergens are common causes of conjunctivitis, as are exposures to chemicals. 

Viral: Viral conjunctivitis typically starts in one eye and quickly spreads to the other. It is the most common cause of pink eye.2 Eye discharge is usually clear to yellow-tinged and watery. Viral infections are contagious and are transmitted to others through respiratory droplets or by touching contaminated objects or surfaces.

Bacterial: Bacterial conjunctivitis typically has a more yellow-to-green discharge that adheres to eyelashes. Bacterial conjunctivitis and ear infections may occur together.

Allergic: Allergic conjunctivitis is characterized by itching, tearing, and swelling. It may co-occur with other allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose and congestion.

Pink eye is easy to recognize. However, it is more difficult to determine the cause. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi are infectious causes of pink eye but require different treatments. Allergic pinkeye is not contagious and is treated symptomatically. To accurately diagnose your pink eye, contact one of the medical professionals at TelegraMD for a professional online diagnosis.

How Do You Know If You Have Pink Eye?

Common signs and symptoms associated with pink eye include:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Tearing
  • Discharge
  • Burning
  • The sensation of a foreign body in the eye
  • Swelling of the eye and inner eyelid
  • Crusting on the eyelashes
  • Gritty sensation
Close-up of a pink eye

Home Remedies for Pink Eye

Reduce the symptoms of pink eye by using these home remedies. Viral and allergic pink eye are treated with symptomatic care. Bacterial causes of pink eye may require an antibiotic eye ointment or drop. If your symptoms persist or you have pain, fever, light sensitivity, systemic symptoms, or vision changes, call a doctor for treatment advice.

Applying a warm compress

Warm compresses can soothe an inflamed eye and may speed healing by increasing blood flow to your eye. Use a warm compress to gently wipe away any discharge. Do not use the same compress on the other eye or share compresses with another person.

If your conjunctivitis is allergic, use a cool compress instead of a warm one. It will help decrease swelling and itchiness.

Using over-the-counter eye drops

Over-the-counter lubricating drops or artificial tears can reduce irritation, remove allergens, and cleanse your irritated eye.

Avoiding Contact Lenses

About 45 million people in the U.S. wear contact lenses, putting them at increased risk for pink eye.3 About one in every five hundred contact lens wearers develops a serious eye infection that could lead to blindness.4

Wearing your contact lenses when you have an eye infection increases the risk of a more serious infection, increases the risk of complications, and increases the risk of reinfection.

A close-up of a person putting a contact lens in their eye

Cleaning Contacts 

Contact lenses can become contaminated with microorganisms, especially if improperly cleaned, and protein builds up on their surface.

When wearing contact lenses, take these steps to reduce your risk for pink eye:

  • Wash your hands before putting contacts in your eyes or removing them.
  • Keep your contact case clean and dry between uses.
  • Add fresh disinfecting solution to your case before storing your contacts overnight.
  • Do not top off your disinfecting solution in your contact cases.
  • Add fresh solution each day.
  • Replace your storage case every three to six months.

Taking Antihistamines or Decongestants 

Antihistamines can reduce itchiness and drainage if your conjunctivitis is allergic. Antihistamines and decongestants can also relieve other cold symptoms if you have a viral infection.

Getting Rest and Fluids

If you have a viral or bacterial infection causing your pinkeye, get plenty of rest and drink fluids. Support your immune system as it fights the infection.

Keep the Infected Area Clean and Dry

Use cool or warm compresses to wipe away any drainage. Keep your eye dry to reduce irritation to the skin around your eye.

Understanding Transmission

Viral and bacterial causes of pink eye can be transmitted from person to person by coughing or sneezing. Pink eye can also be spread by touching a surface that a person with contaminated fingers has previously touched.

You can also get pink eye from bacteria and viruses in your nose and sinuses or contaminated contact lenses.

Preventing Pink Eye Spread

To reduce the spread of pinkeye:

  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like towels and eye makeup.
  • Stay out of shared swimming pools.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces.
  • Cover all coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid crowded spaces when you have an infection.
  • Use a fresh towel and pillowcase daily.
  • Use a clean towel or tissue every time you wipe your eyes.
  • Wash your pillowcases, sheets, towels, and washcloths frequently to prevent reinfection.
A person writing on a clipboard

When To Seek Professional Care

If you have redness, itching, or early symptoms of conjunctivitis, contact an on-call doctor through the TelegraMD platform to receive 24-hour care. If appropriate, after making an online diagnosis, your telemedicine doctor can prescribe an online prescription to treat your conjunctivitis symptoms. Telehealth can be a great cost-effective alternative for treating your non-emergency medical concerns.

If you have any of the following symptoms or signs, contact an eye specialist or ophthalmologist for evaluation and treatment:

  • Vision loss or vision changes
  • Moderate or severe eye pain
  • Changes in the surface of your cornea, a part of the eye that covers your iris and pupil
  • Conjunctival scarring
  • No response to treatment within a week
  • A history or concern about herpes simplex or varicella-zoster conjunctivitis
  • Sensitivity to light

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice. 

References

  1. Udeh BL, Schneider JE, Ohsfeldt RL. Cost effectiveness of a point-of-care test for adenoviral conjunctivitis. Am J Med Sci. Sep 2008;336(3):254-64. doi:10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3181637417
  2. Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis: A Systematic Review of Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA. 2013;310(16):1721-1730. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.280318
  3. Cope JR, Collier SA, Nethercut H, Jones JM, Yates K, Yoder JS. Risk Behaviors for contact lens–related eye infections among adults and adolescents — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(32):841-5.
  4. Dart JK, Radford CF, Minassian D, Verma S, Stapleton F. Risk factors for microbial keratitis with contemporary contact lenses: a case-control study. Ophthalmology. 2008 Oct;115(10):1647-54, 1654.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2008.05.003. Epub 2008 Jul 2. PMID: 18597850.

The Risk of Pink Eye for Contact Wearers

An estimated 45 million people in the U.S. wear contact lenses.1 Contact lenses improve visual acuity and can treat visual problems due to corneal surface irregularities.

Each year, about 1 in every 500 contact lens wearers develops a serious infection that could lead to blindness.2 Not following proper hygiene and contact lens care instructions is linked to an increased risk of infections and complications.

Contact lenses can increase your risk for pink eye, worsen the infection if you continue wearing contacts while your eye is infected, cause complications, and increase the risk of reinfection.

What is Pink Eye?

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the clear membrane covering the surface of the sclera (white part of the eye) and inner eyelids. The conjunctiva is transparent, but it can become red and irritated when inflamed or infected.

Common symptoms associated with pink eye include redness, itchiness, and discharge. You may also feel like something is in your eye, have a burning sensation, and have swelling around your eye.

Viruses, bacteria, and allergens are common causes of pink eye, as are exposures to chemicals. Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk of contracting an infection because they place a foreign body on the surface of their eyes.

Viral and bacterial infections that cause pink eye are contagious. The infection can spread to your other eye and other people.  

A person with a red eye

How Contact Lenses Increase the Risk of Pink Eye

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 99% of contact users surveyed report not following at least one of the recommended contact lens hygiene behaviors and therefore increasing their risk of infection.1 Between 40% and 90% of contact lens wearers do not properly care for their lenses.3

Over 90% of contact lens wearers use soft contact lenses. These lenses absorb water and the viruses and chemicals found in water. They are also a suitable medium for microbial growth, increasing your risk of infection.

Since contact lenses touch the skin, the eye surface, tears, air, contact cases, and other potential sources of contamination, it is not surprising that one-third of contact lens wearers have experienced a red, painful eye that requires emergency treatment. Wearing contact lenses and trauma are the top two causes of eye infections.4

Types of Pink Eyes

Viral, bacterial, and allergic conjunctivitis are the most common forms contact lens wearers are likely to encounter.

Viral

Viral conjunctivitis typically starts in one eye and quickly spreads to the other. Having a respiratory infection or wearing contact lenses while swimming or bathing can increase your risk of viral conjunctivitis.

Viruses can be easily transmitted from person to person, either through respiratory droplets or touching contaminated surfaces, such as a contact lens case.

Bacterial

About 80% to 95% of all conjunctivitis associated with wearing contact lenses is bacterial. When contact lenses or cases are not properly disinfected, bacteria can contaminate contact lenses and contact cases and cause conjunctivitis.4

Bacterial eye infections can threaten vision. Prompt diagnosis and treatment by a licensed eye doctor is essential.

Allergic

Contact lenses can trap allergens against the eye’s surface, causing intense itching, tearing, and swelling. While allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious, prompt treatment is important because the symptoms make it difficult to continue wearing contact lenses. Talk to your doctor before using over-the-counter eye drops to treat allergies to ensure they are safe to use with contact lenses.

Close-up of a pink eye

Common Causes of Pink Eye in Contact Wearers

Wearing contact lenses increases your risk of pink eye and subsequent complications. Factors that increase the risk of conjunctivitis for people who wear contacts include:

  • Contact lenses can become contaminated with microorganisms, especially if proper lens hygiene practices are not followed.
  • Debris, proteins, and microorganisms accumulate over time on extended-wear contacts, increasing the risk of infection.
  • Failing to wash hands prior to handling contacts and not disinfecting contacts and the storage case regularly increases the risk of infection.
  • Wearing contacts in swimming pools, hot tubs, showers, and other bodies of water can increase the risk of infection. Exposing your contact lenses to water increases your risk of Acanthamoeba keratitis, a corneal infection that is resistant to treatment and cure.
  • Contact lenses keep tears from washing the surface of the eyes.
  • Allergens and environmental irritants can become trapped between the contacts and the eye surface, increasing the risk of irritation and infection.
  • Falling asleep with contact lenses in place can increase irritation, dryness, and infection.

Washing hands before touching contacts, using an appropriate disinfecting solution, and keeping the storage case clean and disinfected can reduce your risk of conjunctivitis.

Prevention and Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

To prevent infectious conjunctivitis while wearing contact lenses, take the following preventative steps:4,5,6

  • Wash and dry your hands before handling your contact lenses.
  • Rub and rinse your contacts as directed by your eye care professional.
  • Soak your lenses in fresh disinfecting solution each night.
  • Do not top off your solutions in your contact case. Refill your case with fresh solutions each night.
  • Use cleaning solutions recommended by your eye care professional. Do not use water or saliva to moisturize your lenses.
  • Rinse your case out and store it open to dry.
  • Do not sleep with your contact lenses in your eyes unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.
  • Replace lenses following the schedule provided by your eye doctor.
  • Replace your contact lens storage case every three to six months.
  • Remove your lenses immediately if your eyes become red or irritated or you experience any vision changes.
  • Do not use cleaning solutions or drops that are beyond their expiration or discard date.

Recognizing the Symptoms and Seeking Treatment

Recognizing pink eye symptoms promptly is important, especially if you wear contact lenses. Seeking a professional evaluation and treatment at the first signs of pink eye and discontinuing contact lens use until the infection resolves can reduce your risk of serious complications.

Microbial keratitis is a serious eye infection associated with wearing contact lenses. A rapid onset and progression of pain, redness, and discharge are typical symptoms associated with this condition.

Managing Pink Eye and Contact Lenses

Developing pink eye while wearing contact lenses can be frustrating, but to protect your vision, you should stop wearing your contact lenses until at least two days after your symptoms have resolved.

Thoroughly disinfect your contact case to prevent reinfection. If you wear disposable contact lenses, use a new pair when you resume wearing contact lenses again.

When to Consult an Eye Care Professional

If you have redness, itching, or early symptoms of conjunctivitis, remove your contact lenses and contact an on-call doctor through the TelegraMD platform to receive 24-hour care. If appropriate, your online doctor can prescribe an online prescription to treat your conjunctivitis symptoms. Telehealth can be a great cost-effective alternative for treating your non-emergency medical concerns.

If you have any of the following symptoms or signs, contact an eye specialist or ophthalmologist for evaluation and treatment:

  • Vision loss or vision changes
  • Moderate or severe eye pain
  • Changes in the surface of your cornea, a part of the eye that covers your iris and pupil
  • Conjunctival scarring
  • No response to treatment within a week
  • A history or concern about herpes simplex or varicella-zoster conjunctivitis
  • Sensitivity to light

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice. 

References

  1. Cope JR, Collier SA, Nethercut H, Jones JM, Yates K, Yoder JS. Risk Behaviors for contact lens–related eye infections among adults and adolescents — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(32):841-5.
  2. Dart JK, Radford CF, Minassian D, Verma S, Stapleton F. Risk factors for microbial keratitis with contemporary contact lenses: a case-control study. Ophthalmology. 2008 Oct;115(10):1647-54, 1654.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2008.05.003. Epub 2008 Jul 2. PMID: 18597850.
  3. Bui TH, Cavanagh HD, Robertson DM. Patient compliance during contact lens wear: perceptions, awareness, and behavior.external icon Eye Contact Lens. 2010;36(6):334-9.
  1. Stapleton F, Bakkar M, Carnt N, Chalmers R, Vijay AK, Marasini S, Ng A, Tan J, Wagner H, Woods C, Wolffsohn JS. CLEAR – Contact lens complications. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2021 Apr;44(2):330-367. doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2021.02.010. Epub 2021 Mar 25. PMID: 33775382.
  2.  Kates MM, Tuli S. Complications of Contact Lenses. JAMA. 2021 May 11;325(18):1912. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.20328. PMID: 33974017.
  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Contact lenses. Updated October 28, 2019. Accessed August 22, 2023. Contact Lenses | FDA

Treatment and Causes: Viral vs. Bacterial Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, more commonly called “pink eye,” is inflammation or infection of the clear covering over the eyeball. It typically extends to the inner lining of the eyelids. Pink eye is easy to spot because of the redness and swelling, but it can be very hard to figure out what caused it. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi are all infectious causes of pink eye, and the signs and symptoms associated with pink eye, regardless of the infectious cause, can be very similar.

Besides infectious causes of pink eye, there are many other conditions commonly mistaken for pink eye. Like an infection, these conditions cause the conjunctiva to become inflamed, but they may not cause the drainage, swelling, and itching that are associated with infections.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Viruses and bacteria are the most common causes of pinkeye. The symptoms for both are similar, but there are a few ways to tell them apart.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Increased tearing
  • Pink or red color to the white of the eye
  • Swelling of the eye and inner eyelid
  • Itching or burning
  • Discharge can vary from clear to yellow-green
  • Crusting on the eyelids

Symptoms of Viral Pink Eye

Symptoms associated with viral pinkeye:1

  • Clear to yellow-tinged discharge
  • Watery discharge
  • Cold symptoms
  • Contact with people with cold symptoms

Symptoms of Bacterial Pink Eye

Symptoms associated with bacterial pink eye:2

  • Yellow to green discharge
  • Crusty discharge
  • Ear infection
  • Contact with an infected source, such as makeup

Bacterial and viral causes of pinkeye are both contagious through direct contact or by coming in contact with droplets when infected people cough or sneeze. The most common cause of viral conjunctivitis is adenoviruses, a common cold virus.

Conjunctivitis can also be spread after touching your eyes with contaminated fingers, using old and contaminated makeup, sharing personal items, and using swimming pools.3

When you have conjunctivitis, avoid close contact with other people because it is easy to get and spread pink eye.

How To Know If You Have Viral or Bacterial Pink Eye

While you cannot tell for sure whether you have bacterial or viral pink eye unless you have a culture taken from the discharge? Cultures are not routinely ordered to diagnose the cause of pink eye. There are a few clues that can help you determine which one you might have.

Consider Your Other Symptoms:

Viruses tend to inflame all your respiratory membranes before your immune system can stop their progress. If you have a runny nose and a sore throat, conjunctivitis is more likely caused by a virus. Viral conjunctivitis typically begins in one eye and spreads to the other.

Bacterial causes of conjunctivitis tend to cause more localized infections, such as an ear infection along with conjunctivitis.

Consider the Source

Were you recently around someone with cold symptoms or swimming in a pool? Viral conjunctivitis is spread when infected droplets contact your eye. Some viruses that cause conjunctivitis are very contagious and can cause large outbreaks of conjunctivitis, especially in schools and daycare settings.

Herpes simplex is a virus that causes cold sores and can also cause conjunctivitis. If you have a cold sore and eye redness, contact your doctor. Herpes simplex eye infections are potentially serious, especially if not treated. Likewise, with varicella virus and Epstein-Barr viruses, the viruses that cause chicken pox and mononucleosis.

Have you recently used old makeup or contact lenses? Did you touch your eyes with dirty hands or share makeup or other personal items with someone who may have had an infection?

Treating Pink Eye

While viral causes of pink eye cannot be treated with antibiotics, symptomatic care can make you feel better. Antibiotics and antiviral drugs can be used to treat infections caused by more serious viral causes of conjunctivitis and bacterial conjunctivitis, respectively.

Viral Pink Eye Treatment

Viral pinkeye, unless caused by herpes simplex virus or varicella virus, does not need treatment. Most viral causes of pink eye are mild and will clear up within 7 to 14 days.

Antibiotics only treat bacterial causes of conjunctivitis. Antiviral medications are used to treat more serious forms of viral conjunctivitis. If you have a cold sore or a rash or have been exposed to someone with a rash that may be caused by herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr, or varicella virus, contact your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

Symptomatic treatments for viral conjunctivitis help improve the symptoms and include:

  • Cool compresses
  • Artificial tears or saline eye drops
  • Remove contact lenses
  • Antihistamines

Bacterial Pink Eye Treatment

Mild bacterial causes of pink eye will also clear up on their own, but antibiotic drops or ointment are commonly prescribed to shorten the length of the infection, reduce complications, and reduce the risk of spreading it to other people.

See an online doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis, especially if you cannot see your regular doctor in person. Your online doctor can write a prescription online and transmit it to your local pharmacy for pickup.

Pink Eye Prevention

Since viruses or bacteria can cause conjunctivitis, the best way to prevent its spread is to follow standard infection control practices, such as:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid being around people who are ill
  • Cover all coughs and sneezes
  • Avid touching your face and eyes
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Don’t swim in a pool with another person with conjunctivitis
  • Don’t share makeup and other personal items
  • Check your makeup and cosmetics for a due date
  • Avoid sharing towels and bedding
  • Wash any discharge from your eyes using a clean washcloth

Once your pink eye has cleared up, you will want to prevent reinfection by throwing away any face or eye makeup you currently use, replacing your contact lenses, and cleaning your eyeglasses.

When To Seek Medical Attention

See a doctor in person or online if your symptoms worsen or persist, your eye is swollen, you have a fever or pain, or redness extends to the skin around the eye or the eyelid.

If you think bacteria, or herpes or varicella viruses may be the cause of your conjunctivitis, call an online doctor to receive help fast. Seek emergency care if you experience vision changes, have intense pain or redness, or have a high fever.  

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1. Grief SN. Upper respiratory infections. Prim Care. Sep 2013;40(3):757-70. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2013.06.004

2. Epling J. Bacterial conjunctivitis. BMJ Clin Evid. Feb 20 2012;2012

3. Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis: A Systematic Review of Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA. 2013;310(16):1721-1730. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.280318

Conditions Commonly Misdiagnosed as Pink Eye

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is redness of the eyeball and inner surface of the eyelid due to infection or inflammation. Depending on the cause, you may also experience itchiness, grittiness, drainage, and eyelid swelling.

Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and easy to contract. Pinkeye affects about 6 million people in the U.S. each year.1 It quickly spreads from person to person, especially in schools and childcare centers. However, other conditions cause similar symptoms. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your in-person or online doctor to verify whether you have conjunctivitis or another condition that causes eye redness.

Pink eye can be caused by a minor infection that goes away on its own, or it can be a sign of something more serious. Symptoms that may indicate another condition:

  • Eye pain
  • Vision symptoms
  • Light sensitivity
  • Symptoms that don’t improve within 24 hours
  • Swelling, redness, or tenderness around the eye or eyelids
  • Fever

How To Recognize Pink Eye

Pinkeye has fairly classic signs and symptoms, including the following:

  • Discharge, which varies from clear to yellow-green
  • Crusting of the eyelids and eyelashes
  • Gritty feeling
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • A feeling that there is something in your eye
  • Swollen eyelids

Treatment For Pink Eye

The treatment for pink eye varies depending on the cause.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Treat with symptomatic care, including:

  • Saline eye drops
  • Cold or warm compresses, don’t share compresses or use the same compress for an infected and noninfected eye

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Treat with medical care, including:

  • Antibiotic cream, eye drops, ointment

Allergic conjunctivitis

Treat with a combination of symptomatic and medical care, including:

  • Saline drops
  • Cool compresses
  • Mast cell stabilizers
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroid eye drops
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants

See a doctor in person or online and experience the benefits of telemedicine if your symptoms worsen or persist, or if you are unsure whether you have pinkeye or need antibiotics to treat an infection.

What Else Can Be Mistaken for Pink Eye?

While conjunctivitis is the most likely cause of pinkeye, other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Since pink eye is nonspecific, it is important to consider conditions that can be misdiagnosed as pink eye.

Allergies

There is a lot of overlap between the symptoms of a cold and allergies. Likewise, it’s hard to tell whether a virus or an allergen causes conjunctivitis.

There are many similarities between viral and allergic conjunctivitis. They both cause:

  • Eye redness
  • A watery eye discharge
  • A gritty feeling in the eyes

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viruses cause most cases of conjunctivitis. Although over 200 different viral strains can cause conjunctivitis and cold symptoms, adenovirus causes the vast majority of cases.2   

Symptoms that may suggest viral conjunctivitis instead of allergic include:

  • No other allergy symptoms
  • Clear to yellow eye drainage
  • Symptoms start in one eye and spread to the other
  • Highly contagious

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is very common, especially in the spring and fall. Most people with allergic conjunctivitis will have other allergy symptoms as well.

Symptoms that suggest allergic conjunctivitis instead of viral include:

  • History of having allergies
  • Seasonal pattern
  • Itchiness

The treatment for viral and allergic conjunctivitis differs from bacterial causes of conjunctivitis. If you have allergy symptoms or allergic conjunctivitis, contact an online doctor to get an online prescription for one of the many potential treatments for allergic conjunctivitis: antihistamines, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid eye drops.

Dry Eyes

Dry, irritated eyes from exposure to pollution, wearing contacts too long, or not producing enough tears can cause a reddened conjunctiva that looks like conjunctivitis. Typically, there is no drainage or cold symptoms, and symptoms improve when using an eye moisturizer or artificial tears.

Abrasion or Foreign Body in the Eye

An abrasion or foreign body in the eye can cause eye redness and discomfort. You may also experience a gritty sensation that something is still in your eye, along with photophobia (light sensitivity), tearing, blurred vision, hazy vision, and pain. These symptoms are similar to those seen with pink eye. Abrasions can be misdiagnosed as pink eye.

Unlike conjunctivitis, abrasions and foreign bodies have a sudden onset. Something gets into the eye and scratches it or remains in the eye. It causes significant discomfort that is not relieved until the foreign body is removed and the abrasion is treated.

Styes

A stye or hordeolum is a small, painful lump that forms at the base of your eyelash or under your eyelid. Most styes are caused by a bacterial infection, typically Staphylococcus, and are often filled with pus and irritate the conjunctiva.

Since the stye irritates the eye, you may have the following symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • A sensation of a foreign body in the eye
  • Eyelid tenderness
  • A gritty feeling in the eye
  • Eyelid redness and swelling
  • Yellowish discharge
  • A crust on the eyelid

Subconjunctival hemorrhage

A subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs when one of the tiny blood vessels under the conjunctiva breaks open and blood layers out under the conjunctiva. Sudden pressure increases, such as when coughing or sneezing, can cause the blood vessel to break, as can rubbing the eye too hard.

You will notice an area of bright red blood. Most subconjunctival hemorrhages don’t cause any symptoms except possibly a small amount of tenderness. In most cases, no treatment is needed.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a chronic inflammation of the eyelid. It usually affects the eye along the edges of the eyelid and has a crusty appearance. Tiny oil glands near the base of the eyelashes help lubricate the eyelid. When these glands get clogged, it causes irritation and redness. This is called posterior blepharitis.

Anterior blepharitis occurs when bacteria infect the glands on their outer surface. Allergies and mites can also cause anterior blepharitis. Keeping the eyes clean is the primary treatment for blepharitis.3

Keratitis

Keratitis is an inflammation and swelling of the cornea of the eye. The cornea is the clear dome that covers the pupil and the iris (colored part) of the eye. When the cornea is red and swollen, it can cause difficulty seeing.

Like conjunctivitis, keratitis has infectious and noninfectious causes. For example, wearing a contact lens too long can cause corneal inflammation and a serious infection.4 If you think you might have keratitis, see your eye doctor promptly to reduce the risk of vision loss or other complications.

Uveitis

Uveitis is inflammation inside the eye. The uvea is the middle layer of the eye, which includes the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. When it is inflamed, it can cause red, painful eyes; blurry vision; vision changes; and light sensitivity. If it is not treated, uveitis can cause vision loss.5

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is increased pressure in the eye. Unfortunately, glaucoma frequently does not cause symptoms until you begin to notice vision loss. With open-angle glaucoma, peripheral vision is lost first. The earlier the conditions are detected, the better, because there are treatment options that may protect your vision.

Angle-closure glaucoma causes a more dramatic increase in eye pressure and, therefore, may cause more symptoms, including blurry vision, eye pain, headaches, and halos around lights.

There are other types of glaucoma as well. To lower your risk of losing your sight from glaucoma, you should get an eye exam and have your eye pressure checked once a year. 6

When To See a Doctor

Conjunctivitis is a common cause of pinkeye, but many conditions can cause a red eye and be misdiagnosed as pink eye. Some of these conditions can cause vision loss if they are not promptly treated. If you have symptoms that suggest conjunctivitis, see your doctor or schedule an online appointment to get help fast. The online doctor can evaluate your symptoms and refer you to an ophthalmologist if further treatment is necessary.

 Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1.  Udeh BL, Schneider JE, Ohsfeldt RL. Cost effectiveness of a point-of-care test for adenoviral conjunctivitis. Am J Med Sci. Sep 2008;336(3):254-64. doi:10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3181637417

2.  Grief SN. Upper respiratory infections. Prim Care. Sep 2013;40(3):757-70. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2013.06.004

3.  Duncan K, Jeng BH. Medical management of blepharitis. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. Jul 2015;26(4):289-94. doi:10.1097/icu.0000000000000164

4.  Maier P, Betancor PK, Reinhard T. Contact Lens-Associated Keratitis-an Often Underestimated Risk. Dtsch Arztebl Int. Oct 7 2022;119(40):669-674. doi:10.3238/arztebl.m2022.0281

5.  Burkholder BM, Jabs DA. Uveitis for the non-ophthalmologist. Bmj. Feb 3 2021;372:m4979. doi:10.1136/bmj.m4979

6. Weinreb RN, Aung T, Medeiros FA. The pathophysiology and treatment of glaucoma: a review. Jama. May 14 2014;311(18):1901-11. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.3192

How Do You Get Pink Eye?

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is an infection or inflammation of the outer covering of the eye and the inner lining of the eyelids. In addition to the pink color, many people get a clear to yellow-green discharge from the eye.

Pink eye doesn’t usually cause pain, fever, or redness that goes beyond the eyeball and the inside of the eyelids. It also doesn’t affect your vision. In most cases, pink eye will go away on its own.

Other common signs and symptoms of pink eye include:

  • Crusting of the eyelids
  • Gritty feeling
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Swollen eyelids
  • A feeling that something is in your eyes

Pink eye is a common infection, especially in young children, because it is so contagious. It affects about 6 million people in the United States each year.1

What Causes Pink Eye?

Anything that causes irritation or infection in the eye is a potential cause of pink eye.

Infectious causes

  • Viral conjunctivitis: Viruses account for about 80% of conjunctivitis cases.2 The most common viruses that cause conjunctivitis include adenovirus (65% to 90% of cases),3 other viral causes include rubella, rubeola, enterovirus, Epstein Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, and varicella-zoster virus.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis: Bacterial conjunctivitis is less common than viral. Common causes of bacterial conjunctivitis include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Staphylococcus aureus (more common in adults).4 Sexually transmitted infections can also cause bacterial conjunctivitis.

Noninfectious causes

  • Allergic conjunctivitis: Sensitivity to allergens causes allergic conjunctivitis. This type of conjunctivitis is more common in people with other allergy symptoms. Itching and a watery eye discharge help distinguish allergic conjunctivitis from infectious causes.5
  • Chemical irritants: Chemicals in cosmetics are a common cause of chemically induced conjunctivitis. Chlorinated swimming pools are another common cause.
  • Foreign bodies: Contact lenses and other foreign bodies can cause eye redness and swelling.

Is Pink Eye Contagious?

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are contagious for as long as you have symptoms.

If you are unsure about the cause of your conjunctivitis, see a doctor in-person or online to receive an accurate online diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

How Does Pink Eye Spread? 

Bacteria and viruses that cause conjunctivitis are spread through direct contact or by coughing and sneezing. Pink eye can be spread by touching something that a person with contaminated fingers has previously touched. It is also spread in medical offices via contaminated medical instruments.  

Swimming pools are a common way to transmit conjunctivitis to multiple people. Finally, you can transmit conjunctivitis by sharing makeup and other personal items.2

Can Adults Get Pink Eye?

Adults can get pink eye, though it is more common in children. This is because children are in closer contact with each other in schools and childcare centers. They have also not developed immunity to as many viruses as adults have. Staphylococcus aureus is more common in adults than in children.

How Can You Stop Pink Eye from Spreading?

You can stop pink eye from spreading by taking some precautions. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and eyes, and cover any coughs or sneezes to protect others. Avoid crowded spaces, especially if they are not well-ventilated.

To stop the infection from spreading, wash your pillowcases, sheets, washcloths, and towels as often as possible with hot water and soap. Personal items should not be shared.

How To Treat Pink Eye

The best method to treat viral conjunctivitis depends on the cause.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Treat with symptomatic care, including:

  • Saline eye drops
  • Cold or warm compresses, don’t share compresses or use the same compress for an infected and noninfected eye

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Treat with medical care, including:

  • Antibiotic cream, eye drops, ointment

Allergic conjunctivitis

Treat with a combination of symptomatic and medical care, including:

  • Saline drops
  • Cool compresses
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Mast cell stabilizers
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroid eye drops

When To See a Doctor

See a doctor in-person or online and experience the benefits of telemedicine if your symptoms worsen or persist. Other worrying signs that might point to a more serious problem or illness than conjunctivitis are:

  • Eye pain
  • Vision symptoms
  • Light sensitivity
  • Symptoms that don’t improve within 24 hours
  • Swelling, redness, or tenderness around the eye or eyelids
  • Fever

If you think you may have viral or bacterial conjunctivitis or your symptoms from allergic conjunctivitis are not getting better with symptomatic care, call to schedule an appointment with a telemedicine doctor and learn how to get a prescription online.

 Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1.  Udeh BL, Schneider JE, Ohsfeldt RL. Cost effectiveness of a point-of-care test for adenoviral conjunctivitis. Am J Med Sci. Sep 2008;336(3):254-64. doi:10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3181637417

2. Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis: A Systematic Review of Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA. 2013;310(16):1721-1730. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.280318

3. O’Brien TP, Jeng BH, McDonald M, Raizman MB. Acute conjunctivitis: truth and misconceptions. Curr Med Res Opin. Aug 2009;25(8):1953-61. doi:10.1185/03007990903038269

4.  Epling J. Bacterial conjunctivitis. BMJ Clin Evid. Feb 20, 2012;2012

5. La Rosa M, Lionetti E, Reibaldi M, et al. Allergic conjunctivitis: a comprehensive review of the literature. Italian Journal of Pediatrics. 2013;39(1):18. doi:10.1186/1824-7288-39-18

What Does Pink Eye Look Like? Signs and Symptoms

Pink eye is the common name for conjunctivitis, an inflammation or infection of the clear covering over the eyeball and lining the inside of the eyelid. It is an umbrella term for any of the many things that can cause pink eye, like bacteria, viruses, or allergies. Pink eye symptoms are non-specific.

Pink eye does not affect your vision. It usually goes away on its own after a few days, but it can be highly contagious. Bacterial causes of pink eye require treatment; viral causes resolve on their own; and allergic causes may persist as long as you are exposed to the allergen.

Conjunctivitis is common. It affects about 6 million people in the United States each year.1 Viral and allergic conjunctivitis is most prevalent in the summer. Bacterial conjunctivitis has a peak incidence between December and April.2  

What Is Pink Eye?

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the outer covering of the eye. The process is very similar to inflammation of the inner lining of the nose. Instead of nasal congestion and a runny nose, you can expect tearing and crusting around the eye.

Pink eye comes from direct contact with an infectious person. Because children are more likely to be together and in close contact with each other, pink eye is more common in children, but adults can also get it.

There are three major types of conjunctivitis: bacterial, viral, and allergic.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and is treated with antibiotic cream or ointment. Unlike viral or allergic conjunctivitis, most people with bacterial conjunctivitis have a yellow, green discharge without itchiness.3 Like viral conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis commonly starts in one eye and spreads to the other.

Viral conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is the most common cause of conjunctivitis. There are over 200 different viral strains that cause colds and viral conjunctivitis.4 Viral conjunctivitis is very contagious. It spreads via contaminated fingers, medical instruments, swimming pools, and sharing personal items.5

Viral conjunctivitis commonly starts in one eye, affects both eyes, and has a watery to yellowish discharge. Antibiotics are not helpful in treating viral conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Unlike viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. Allergic conjunctivitis is in response to an allergen. Antibiotics are not helpful in treating allergic conjunctivitis. Symptoms include intense itching, tearing, and swelling. You may also have other allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchiness, and a dry cough.

Other causes of conjunctivitis include:

  • Contact lens irritation
  • Air pollution
  • Fungi
  • Chemicals
  • Foreign bodies

What Does Pink Eye Look Like?

Pink eye is appropriately named, as it describes the primary symptom of conjunctivitis. In addition to a pink color, you may notice that the clear covering over the surface of the eyeball and the inner lining of the eyelid is swollen.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

In addition to redness and swelling of the eyeball and eyelid coverings, other symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Discharge, which varies from clear to yellow-green
  • Crusting of the eyelids and eyelashes
  • Gritty feeling
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • A feeling that there is something in your eye
  • Swollen eyelids

How Do You Know If You Have Pink Eye?

If your eyeball is pink to red in color, you have pink eye. The more challenging question is, “What is causing your pink eye?”

If your eye discharge:

  • is clearer to yellow and watery instead of green and thick, and you have cold symptoms, the cause is likely a virus.
  • is thick and yellow-green and you have other signs of a bacterial infection, such as an ear infection, the cause is likely bacterial.
  • is coming from both eyes and your eyes are itchy and watery, the cause is likely allergic.

If you are unsure about the cause of your conjunctivitis, see a doctor in-person or online to receive an accurate online diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

See a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms with pink eye:

  • Eye pain
  • Vision symptoms
  • Light sensitivity
  • Symptoms that don’t improve within 24 hours
  • Swelling, redness, or tenderness around the eye or eyelids
  • Fever

See a doctor if you have a health condition that weakens your immune system, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

What To Do If You Have Pink Eye

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are very contagious. To protect others, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and eyes, and cover any coughs or sneezes. To keep the infection from spreading, wash your pillowcases, sheets, washcloths, and towels, often with hot water and soap. Do not share personal items.

Your work or school may require a doctor’s note before you can return. Consult with an online doctor to be evaluated quickly, receive treatment, get a doctor’s note, and rule out any conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye.

What Is the Treatment for Pink Eye?

Most viral conjunctivitis can be treated with symptomatic care, such as saline eye drops and warm or cold compresses. If you wear contact lenses, remove them and replace them with a fresh pair once your infection is gone. If you have herpes simplex virus or varicella-zoster virus, antiviral treatment is recommended, along with close follow-up with an eye doctor.

Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with antihistamines, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid eye drops. If possible, try to identify the allergen causing your symptoms and minimize your contact.6  

For bacterial conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream, eye drops, or ointment. They decrease the length of time you have symptoms and can reduce contagiousness.5 An online doctor can send a prescription to a local pharmacy or transmit an online prescription to a partner pharmacy for delivery.

 Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1. Udeh BL, Schneider JE, Ohsfeldt RL. Cost-effectiveness of a point-of-care test for adenoviral conjunctivitis. Am J Med Sci. Sep 2008;336(3):254-64. doi:10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3181637417

2. Høvding G. Acute bacterial conjunctivitis. Acta Ophthalmol. Feb 2008;86(1):5-17. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0420.2007.01006.x

3. Epling J. Bacterial conjunctivitis. BMJ Clin Evid. Feb 20 2012;2012

4. Grief SN. Upper respiratory infections. Prim Care. Sep 2013;40(3):757-70. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2013.06.004

5.  Azari AA, Barney NP. Conjunctivitis: A Systematic Review of Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA. 2013;310(16):1721-1730. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.280318

6. La Rosa M, Lionetti E, Reibaldi M, et al. Allergic conjunctivitis: a comprehensive review of the literature. Italian Journal of Pediatrics. 2013/03/14 2013;39(1):18. doi:10.1186/1824-7288-39-18