Pink Eye Treatment (Conjunctivitis)

An individuals with a brown eyeball suffering from pink eye.

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent membrane covering the surface of the inner eyelid and the front of the eye. The conjunctiva has many small blood vessels. It lubricates and protects the eye while the eye moves in its socket. When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, this is called conjunctivitis.

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, often called pink eye, comes in three basic categories. Bacterial conjunctivitis, although uncommon, can be very serious. Typically, one will experience swelling of the eyelid and a yellowish, creamy discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis is not highly contagious. Viral conjunctivitis, however, is very contagious and can spread through a home infecting household items such as towels or handkerchiefs. It is common for entire families to become infected. Lastly, allergic conjunctivitis can often cause itching and/or matting of the eyelids.

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Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

  • Red, watery eyes
  • Inflamed eyelids
  • Blurred vision and a sandy or scratchy feeling in the eyes
  • Pus-like or watery discharge around the eyelids
  • Matting of the eyelids

Treatment for Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Antibiotic drops and compresses can ease discomfort and clear up the infection, normally within just a few days. Sometimes, the inflammation does not respond well to the initial treatment with eye drops. In those rare cases, a second visit to the office should be made. When there is a severe infection, oral antibiotics are necessary. If left untreated, conjunctivitis can create serious complications such as infections in the cornea, eyelids, and tear ducts.


Is pink eye contagious?

Pink eye can be contagious but isn’t always. For example, people who develop allergic conjunctivitis are not contagious to others, though they may still require treatment to reduce uncomfortable symptoms. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are both very contagious. Patients must take precautions for up to two weeks after their symptoms appear to avoid the spread of infection. Pink eye can spread from one person to another in many of the same ways as other infections. Touching an object that has the infection-causing bacteria or virus on it transfers the pathogen to the hands. If one then touches their eyes, the pathogen can cause pink eye. Bacteria can live on surfaces for approximately 8 hours. Viruses can live on surfaces for up to a few months.

Touching another person could also lead to the transmission of a pink eye, as can cough or sneeze. People who wear contact lenses are more susceptible to pink eye because the bacteria can live on these lenses.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

From the time a person becomes infected, it can take from 24 to 72 hours for the symptoms of pink eye to appear. During this incubation period, the infection is not contagious. Once symptoms appear, the infection can be transmitted from person to person so precautions should be taken. At that time, an appointment with the eye doctor should also be made.

Diagnosing Conjunctivitis

Your eye doctor can easily detect conjunctivitis at an exam.

How can I tell what type of conjunctivitis I have?

It is possible to determine the type of conjunctivitis that has developed by seeing an eye doctor. The eye doctor performs a thorough examination of the eye as well as a consultation to understand what may have caused symptoms, such as another infection of illness. It can sometimes be challenging to discern the cause of the pink eye because the symptoms are similar regardless of the form that has occurred. Sometimes, a doctor will collect a sample of the discharge from the eye and send it to a lab for testing.
Sometimes, it is possible to reach an accurate diagnosis through the recognition of specific characteristics. For example:
  • Viral conjunctivitis may occur relative to a common cold or respiratory infection. The discharge may be more watery than thick.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis may occur relative to an ear infection. The discharge may be thicker.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis may occur alongside seasonal allergy symptoms when pollen counts are high. This form of pink eye may also coincide with intense eye itching, asthma, eczema, or hay fever.

How long does pink eye last?

Pink eye may last for a few days or a few weeks. This depends on its cause. Patients do not become contagious until symptoms have developed. When caused by a virus, the infection can last up to two weeks. Bacterial conjunctivitis may also last that long. However, the infection should no longer be contagious beginning 24 hours after antibiotic treatment has started.

Can I get pink eye again?

Yes. Having pink eye once does not build up immunity to future infections or allergic responses. All forms of this condition, including allergic conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis, and viral conjunctivitis, can recur. Steps may be taken to decrease the risks of future infection, such as washing hands frequently and avoiding touching the eyes. Cosmetics and washcloths should not be shared, and pillowcases should be washed regularly.

How can conjunctivitis be prevented?

Certain precautions can to taken to avoid the disease and stop its spread. Careful washing of the hands, the use of clean handkerchiefs, and avoiding contagious individuals are all helpful. Children frequently get conjunctivitis because of their poor hygiene.

If you or someone in your household has contracted conjunctivitis, follow these steps to prevent the spread of the infection:

  • Every time you touch your eyes or face, including when using medicine in your eye(s), wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Wash any clothing touched by infected eyes including clothes, towels, and pillowcases.
  • Do not share make-up. If the infection is caused by bacteria or a virus, you must throw away your used make-up and buy new make-up.
  • Do not touch the infected eye because the infection will spread to the other eye.

What are the risks of leaving pink eye untreated?

Conjunctivitis must always be examined by an eye doctor. Without examination, it is not possible to understand the source of symptoms. There are different forms of pink eye, such as viral conjunctivitis and allergic conjunctivitis. Treatment must be relevant to the type of pink eye that has developed so adequate relief can be achieved. In addition to the risk of infecting others, the untreated pink eye also carries the risk of potential worsening. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, some forms of the pink eye might spread beyond the conjunctiva to cause more severe infection.


If you would like to learn more about Pink Eye Treatment (Conjunctivitis) call 1-800-244-9907 to make an appointment at Central Valley Eye Medical Group.


Patient Testimonial

“This place was great! as a new patient, I had minimal paperwork to fill out, and the wait time was short. all the doctors and assistants were very pleasant. I had Dr. Choi and although I have seen him for only a few minutes he made me feel very comfortable.” – Yasmeen A.

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If you’re interested in learning more about conjunctivitis please contact us for a consultation at 1.800.244.9907 or fill out our contact us form below. We will discuss your needs and concerns, and determine your best course of action.


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