Signs and symptoms of pink eye
There are several types of pink eye and the symptoms can vary slightly with each form. In many cases, the first signs of pink eye are redness and itchiness.
Also called conjunctivitis, pink eye can be caused by infections, allergies and other irritants.
Viral conjunctivitis is the most common type of pink eye. It is usually mild, but very contagious. Alternatively, viral conjunctivitis can occur alongside a cold, flu or upper respiratory infection. Symptoms usually last between one and three weeks.
Symptoms can show up in one eye, both eyes, or one eye and then both eyes. Eye-related signs in adults and children can include:
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Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a contagious bacterial infection instead of a viral one. It can also occur alongside another ailment, such as an ear infection.
Bacterial conjunctivitis can also affect one or both eyes, and its symptoms tend to be more noticeable:
Sticky, yellow or green-yellow pus discharge (in the corner of the eye)
Eyelids sticking together, especially after waking up
Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by environmental or other allergies. This affects both eyes and is not contagious. It usually goes away on its own, but may require eye drops or allergy treatment to ease symptoms.
Allergic conjunctivitis symptoms more closely resemble viral conjunctivitis, but are often more mild. Symptoms can include:
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The symptoms of pink eye can be irritating, but they often resolve themselves over the course of a week or two. A doctor should always assess your symptoms to set you on the correct path to healing.
In the case of bacterial conjunctivitis, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops to ensure a speedy recovery and reduce the chance of rare complications. A doctor may also choose to prescribe certain non-antibiotic medicines for other forms of conjunctivitis.
Some natural remedies may be able to help with discomfort, but should never replace an in-person doctor’s appointment or doctor-directed treatment.
Scheduling a doctor’s appointment
There are several types of pink eye, each with a slightly different set of symptoms. Most involve some form of eye redness and irritation.
However, these can also be symptoms of more serious conditions. Any time your eyes become irritated or your vision changes, contact your eye doctor. They can diagnose your condition, rule out other disorders and prescribe appropriate pink eye treatment.
Page published in August 2020
Page updated in November 2021