Do I Have Pink Eye?

Often patients come into Antietam Eye to ask if they have Pink Eye. I sense that most patients are referring to an eye infection. Technically, though, if the white part of your eye is pink you have Pink Eye or conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva is actually a clear membrane over the white sclera of the eye. When the eye is irritated the blood vessels in this area dilate making the eye look pink or red. There are MANY reasons for someone to have Pink Eye and the treatments vary significantly.

Viral Conjunctivitis is very often very contagious. It is spread through eye contact by hands or objects that are contaminated with the virus. It is often associated with other viral infections like an upper respiratory infection. Typically, Viral Conjunctivitis lasts for 7-14 days, but some cases can last up to three weeks. There are no anti-viral eye drops for the majority of viral conjunctivitis, but there are supportive treatments and drops that can be prescribed to help during recovery or even to help shorten the duration of infection.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis is also contagious and spread by contaminated hands and objects coming in contact with the eye. Another component to Bacterial Conjunctivitis is opportunistic bacteria. Our eyes have natural bacteria that exist on and around the eye. If the eye becomes irritated or scratched, these bacteria can flare up, causing an infection to produce. There are several antibiotic eye drops that can be used to treat Bacterial Conjunctivitis as well as oral medications if the infection is severe.

We are entering a time when Allergic Conjunctivitis will become prominent. Although it can occur all year long, when everything starts to bloom in the spring, white eyes become red and itchy! Allergic Conjunctivitis can become very severe. If a person is prone to this, treatment is best started before it becomes severe and should continue through that person’s allergy season. Be careful, there are a lot of over-the-counter options that claim to treat allergic conjunctivitis; not all are equal. Allergy drops that reduce and eliminate the redness may simply be vasoconstrictors; making the blood vessels in the eye constrict which lead to a whiter, clearer eye. These drops will not get to the root of the problem, so they are a very short-term solution. There are many good prescription drops to treat Allergic Conjunctivitis, however only a few over-the-counter options. Ask your eye care professional for options before you start any allergy eye drop.


  • Pink or red eye(s)
  • Experiencing pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Itchiness (With Allergic Conjunctivitis – it will feel VERY itchy. It is important that you try NOT to rub your eye)
  • Tearing and/or mucus discharge
  • Irritation, burning and/or a sensation like something is in your eye
  • Eyelash crusting/matting

These are just some of the signs and symptoms of Conjunctivitis and only a few of the causes of Pink Eye. While these infections may not always have or respond to a treatment plan, finding the correct diagnosis will help eliminate further complications and lead to a faster and complete recovery.


  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water often.
  • Never, ever share eye makeup or contact lenses.
  • Take care of your contact lenses and do not rinse them with water. Clean your contact cases too!
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes, especially if you have an active cold.
  • For allergy sufferers, be proactive and start treatment before your allergies flare.


  • Conjunctivitis is the main cause of missed daycare and school days for students.


Healthy Eyes That Last a Lifetime

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