How To Know If You Have Pink Eye

Wondering how to know if you have pink eye? Pink eye, or technically speaking, conjunctivitis, is a very common medical condition that can affect the eye or eyes of virtually anyone at any age. Pink eye, if caused by a bacteria or virus, is also highly contagious and should be professionally treated to prevent any complications and to avoid the spread to others. How do you know if you have pink eye and should seek medical attention?

  1. What is pink eye? Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a condition which causes inflammation or swelling of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the membrane lining the insides of the eyelids and covering the whites of the eye. When this membrane becomes irritated by an allergen or a foreign material—or becomes infected by bacteria or virus—the conjunctiva becomes inflamed and the symptoms of pink eye begin.
  2. Do you have the primary symptom of pink eye? As the name notes, the tell-tale sign of pink eye is a pink eye—or eyes. Typically the pinkish/reddish discoloration is a drastic one—unlike a simple bloodshot eye or some mild irritation caused by an eye irritant that disappears once the person is removed from the area and the eye flushes itself with tears. The lining of the eyelid will be pink or red, as well as the actual whites of the affected eye.
  3. What other symptoms do you have? Symptoms such as severe itching, increased watering, burning and swollen eyelids are common with pink eye. Depending on the cause, these symptoms may vary in severity or be accompanied by others, such as a thick, yellow or green discharge.
  4. Do you have allergies that frequently affect the eyes? Many people are affected by seasonal or environmental allergens and suffer often from allergic pink eye. Pink eye caused by allergens is not contagious and is often treated with as-needed prescription eye drops as part of an individual’s allergy treatment plan. If seasonal factors or a dreaded pet dander allergen often cause eye irritation, be sure to keep the eye drops handy to ward off a full blown pink eye attack.
  5. How do you know if your case of pink eye is contagious? If you are an allergy sufferer plagued by red, itchy eyes every spring, then an April pink eye episode is likely the result of a non-contagious inflammation. If you were working outside in heavy smoke or during a windstorm, a simple eye irritant may be to blame. Sometimes contact lenses or other medical factors may also cause pink eye symptoms. Because the symptoms of contagious viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are virtually identical to cases caused by allergens and environmental irritants, a visit to the doctor is often necessary to allow the patient to return to work or school.
  6. What is the difference between viral and bacterial conjunctivitis? Both of these forms of pink eye are very contagious—and present similar symptoms. Often, the presence of viral pink eye is suspected because of any thick, discolored discharge. Your physician will likely swab the affected eye and test the material to choose a treatment. Bacterial pink eye is treated with an antibiotic, and patients are generally able to return to school or work after 24 hours of treatment. Viral pinkeye does not respond to antibiotics and must run its course, taking up to several days to clear. Other causes may respond well to prescription or over-the-counter eye drops and other home remedies.

If you suspect that you have pink eye, see a physician to begin treatment to shorten the run of the illness and avoid the sharing of it with others!


National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus

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