Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the thin clear tissue that lines the eye’s white part and the eyelids’ inside. Viruses, bacteria, allergens, and irritants can cause it. Symptoms can vary by type, including redness, itching, watering, discharge, and a gritty eye sensation. While the pink eye can occur at any time of the year, there may be a slightly higher risk of catching it during flu season due to more direct contact and weakened immune systems.
Viruses are usually responsible for most cases of pink eye, and they can spread quickly between people through direct contact, respiratory droplets, or contaminated objects – though some risk factors, such as overcrowded environments, poor hygiene practices, and compromised immune systems, may increase transmission rates. On the other hand, bacterial pink eye can be spread via indirect contact if someone with this infection touches something that then comes in contact with your eyes or face.
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis symptoms include:
Reddened eyes that look bloodshot or pink.
Itching in the affected eye(s).
Some patients may also experience a gritty sensation in their eyes or have trouble opening and closing their eyes.
Viral pink eye typically lasts 7 to 10 days without treatment and 2 to 4 days with antibiotic treatment, and you can usually return to school or work once you are no longer contagious. For bacterial pink eye, your doctor will prescribe medication in the form of eye drops or ointments.
Some forms of bacterial pink eye, like the herpes simplex virus or varicella-zoster (chickenpox/shingles) types, require antiviral drugs. While these types of pink eye are rare, they can cause severe complications if left untreated.
Itching, swollen eyelids, blurred vision, and light sensitivity are other common symptoms of this condition. To help reduce irritation, doctors recommend rinsing the eyes with warm or cold compresses or homemade saline solution (mixing salt with distilled water) and using cool, soothing tea bags. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also provide relief.
Washing your hands frequently with soap and using a hand sanitizer as often as possible are also recommended, just as you would to avoid the common cold and flu. Changing your pillowcase and towels daily is essential, as is not sharing cosmetics or contact lenses. In addition, if you notice any new or worsening symptoms, speak to your healthcare professional immediately.