Pink eye or conjunctivitis causes painful, red, and itchy eyes. The time it takes to clear up depends on the type of
pink eye. It often resolves in 7-10 days, but some people may need treatment.
Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis is with antibiotics. Most people will need antibiotic treatment for 5–7 days. A doctor will advise on when to return to work or school, but people
Pink eye that results from an allergy is not contagious and will typically clear after a person moves away from the allergen.
Allergic, viral, and bacterial are three types of pink eye. The type of pink eye a person has will affect how long it takes to heal.
1. Allergic pink eye
Exposure to chemicals such as chlorine can also lead to symptoms.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.
It will resolve more quickly if a person can move away from the allergens that cause the reaction. Some people may need eye drops or other medication to keep allergic conjunctivitis at bay.
2. Viral pink eye
Viruses responsible for pink eye
- Adenovirus: This accounts for up to 90% of cases.
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV): HSV is likely responsible for 1.3–4.8% of cases.
- Acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis: Less common but highly contagious, this is passed on by hand-eye contact and possibly touching surfaces where the virus is present.
- COVID-19: Between
1% and 6%of people with the virus develop pink eye. The virus may transmit through contact with eye tissues and discharge.
Viral pink eye can:
- stem from an infection that spreads from the nose to the eyes
- spread from one eye to another
- transmit via droplets from a cough or sneeze
- result from an upper respiratory infection or cold
- occur with other symptoms, such as a fever and body aches, depending on the cause
3. Bacterial pink eye
With treatment, it should start to improve after 3–4 days of starting antibiotics. A person must take the whole course of antibiotics, or it may recur.
If pink eye does not improve quickly with antibiotic drops, it is likely to be viral rather than bacterial pink eye.
4. Uveitis and other causes
Sometimes an autoimmune disease or other condition can cause symptoms that resemble conjunctivitis.
- uveitis, which can occur with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions
- cellulitis in the eye
- a fistula due to circulatory problems
Sometimes inflammation can occur for no apparent reason.
These types of pink eye are not contagious. But, they need medical attention, as they may lead to complications.
Viral or bacterial pink eye can spread from one person to another
- sharing personal hygiene or other items
- shaking hands or other close personal contact
- using unclean or old makeup that has collected bacteria
- touching the eye with dirty hands
- using contact lenses where pathogens are present
- handling items where bacteria or viruses are present and then touching the eyes
- coughing and sneezing
- touching an infected eye and then the other eye
Pink eye can also be a symptom of an underlying viral or bacterial infection that may be contagious, such as COVID-19 or gonococcal or chlamydial infections.
When the symptoms of bacterial or viral pink eye symptoms are present, the condition is likely to be contagious.
- discharge from the eyes or sticky eyes
- crusty eyelashes and lids
- swelling around the eyes
- burning sensation
- tearing up
- red or pink in the whites of the eyes
- irritation or grittiness in the eyes
A day care, school, or workplace may ask a person not to return until their symptoms have cleared.
The following are some of the more frequently asked questions about pink eye.
Can pink eye go away in 3 days?
Most pink eye infections take 1–2 weeks to resolve without treatment, but it can take up to
What gets rid of pink eye fast?
For bacterial pink eye, using antibiotics can help speed up the healing process. Viral pink eye will usually heal on its own.
People can also take steps to ease the symptoms of pink eye, such as taking over-the-counter painkillers or putting a warm, damp washcloth over their eyes for a few minutes several times a day.
Can someone with pink eye go to school?
If pink eye is infectious, a person should not usually spend time in close contact with others, such as at work or school, until symptoms clear. A doctor can advise when it is safe to return to everyday activities.
How long does pink eye stay contagious?
Pink eye is usually contagious for
Though common and sometimes painful, pink eye is not often a major concern. If an infection is present, people should avoid others until symptoms clear, as it can be very contagious.
Most people can return to work, school, or day care once symptoms have cleared. Often, pink eye goes away on its own, but treatment can help manage discomfort, and antibiotics may clear a bacterial infection more rapidly.