Reviewed by: Amy Hinshaw
Pink eye — also called conjunctivitis — is an inflammation of the eyeball’s outer membrane and inner eyelid. Pink eye is typically mild and resolves on its own. Home-care remedies like eyedrops and cold compresses can help relieve dryness and inflammation.
Though pink eye doesn’t normally warrant serious concern, you still might have some questions, especially if it’s your first encounter with it. For instance, how long does it last? Do eye doctors treat pink eye? Here’s your complete guide to conjunctivitis, including symptoms, how to get rid of pink eye and more.
Some common early-stage pink eye symptoms include:
In some cases, pink eye may accompany cold or respiratory infection symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough or stuffy and runny nose.
Pink eye typically spreads through direct contact with the eye by bacteria-ridden hands or objects. This is known as viral or bacterial conjunctivitis. Bacterial pink eye is highly contagious, spreading easily from person to person.
In other cases, you can contract pink eye from a reaction to dust mites, pollen, grass, mold, pet dander and other allergy-inducing substances. Air pollution or exposure to chemicals like chlorine may also cause pink eye symptoms. Unlike bacterial conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis isn’t contagious.
You may experience symptoms in one or both eyes, depending on the cause. When pink eye results from a virus, symptoms typically begin in one eye and spread to the other one.
Anyone can contract pink eye, from infants to older adults. However, the following groups are usually at a higher risk of conjunctivitis:
Conjunctivitis usually clears up naturally in one to two weeks. However, some cases of viral conjunctivitis can take up to three weeks or longer to heal.
Most cases of pink eye will fade without treatment in a few days to a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you can alleviate dryness, inflammation and other symptoms with the following measures at home:
If you wear contact lenses, you should refrain from using them until your symptoms clear up. You should also stay home from work or school until the infection resolves to avoid spreading it.
Once your pink eye heals, you’ll want to avoid catching and transmitting it again whenever possible. Here are some general conjunctivitis prevention measures to note for the future:
After a few days of self-care measures, symptoms like redness, crustiness, discharge, puffiness and excessive tearing should go away. To prevent reinfection after your pink eye clears up, discard the following items you used during your conjunctivitis:
If symptoms continue or intensify after a couple of weeks, medical treatment may be necessary.
You might be wondering who to consult for treatment in more severe instances of conjunctivitis. Do you go to a doctor or optometrist for pink eye? In most cases, regular primary physicians can treat pink eye, so you likely won’t need to see an eye doctor. Visiting an urgent care clinic may be even more viable, as it often provides quicker care.
Conjunctivitis generally clears up on its own without medical treatment, but you should see a health care provider if you experience:
When receiving medical care for severe pink eye, your treatment will depend on the cause of the condition. It may include prescription eyedrops, pills, ointments or water flushes.
Antibiotic eyedrops aren’t usually necessary since most conjunctivitis cases are virus-caused. However, a health care provider may prescribe them if they suspect your pink eye is caused by herpes simplex or bacteria.
Allergy-caused conjunctivitis may be remedied with medications that help manage allergic reactions, like mast cell stabilizers and antihistamines. Medications for inflammation control, such as steroids, decongestants and anti-inflammatory drops, may be recommended.
For more serious conjunctivitis cases, providers may prescribe antiviral medication. A medical provider can determine the type of infection you have by taking a discharge sample from your eye and sending it to a lab for testing. Assessing the cause, symptoms and severity of your pink eye can help your provider determine an appropriate plan for treatment and symptom relief.
If you’re experiencing severe conjunctivitis and need medical attention, our team at Coastal Urgent Care can assist you. With various facilities across Louisiana, we can provide the relief you need while ensuring timely, personalized and compassionate care. We’ll customize a treatment plan to your unique needs and symptoms, helping you recover as soon as possible.
Our centers have multiple exam rooms, allowing our providers to accommodate multiple patients at once for shorter wait times. Additionally, we accept many major insurance plans to reduce out-of-pocket costs for clients.
Skip the long hospital or emergency room waiting times and visit Coastal Urgent Care for quick conjunctivitis relief. Find a clinic near you for pink eye treatment today!