Most cases of pink eye are bilateral, meaning they occur in both eyes. If the cause is an infection, symptoms may begin in one eye and spread to the other. If the cause is an allergy or irritant, symptoms may appear in both eyes at the same time.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is one of the
Keep reading to learn more about pink eye in both eyes, including how common it is, the symptoms, treatments, and when to contact a doctor.
Pink eye can occur due to viruses, bacteria, or allergens. Newborns may develop pink eye, or neonatal conjunctivitis, due to irritation, infection, or a blocked tear duct.
Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can look similar, but there are some differences.
Viral conjunctivitis occurs when a person contracts a virus, such as the adenovirus that causes the common cold. It typically causes a watery discharge. A person may also have cold or flu-like symptoms.
In contrast, bacterial conjunctivitis occurs due to bacteria getting in the eye. These infections can stem from several types of bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, which commonly affects the sinuses and throat.
Both types of conjunctivitis are highly contagious and can easily spread from one eye to the other.
Pink eye can also be the result of a reaction to allergens such as grass, mold, or pollen, or chemicals such as chlorine. Around 40% of people may experience allergic pink eye. It is not contagious and will usually affect both eyes at the same time.
The symptoms of pink eye include:
- red eyes
- dry or itchy eyes
- eye watering or discharge
- crusting on the eyelids or lashes, which may be worse in the morning
- swelling around the eyelids
- the feeling that something is stuck in the eye
As toddlers and children may not always be able to tell adults about their symptoms, parents and caregivers should look out for:
- frequent eye rubbing
- the child waking up with discharge or crust around the eyes
- dislike of bright lights
Newborns who get pink eye will usually develop symptoms within
Pink eye can be a symptom of COVID-19. In some cases, pink eye is the
If there is a possibility conjunctivitis could be a symptom of COVID-19, a person should seek testing. They should avoid contact with others until getting the test result.
Most cases of pink eye are mild and get better on their own without treatment. This means most people do not need to contact a doctor for pink eye.
However, in some cases, people may need medical attention. A person should contact a doctor if they experience:
- moderate or severe eye pain
- blurred vision
- sensitivity to light
- intense redness in one or both eyes
- symptoms that do not improve or become worse
A person should also speak with a doctor if they have pink eye and a weakened immune system, due to conditions such as HIV or medical treatments that affect immunity.
If a person experiences any of the following symptoms, they should seek urgent medical help:
- changes in vision, such as flashing lights or loss of vision
- severe headache and nausea
- an injury or something stuck in their eye
- one pupil that is larger than the other
These symptoms may suggest a more serious condition that could be an emergency.
Newborns with pink eye should receive medical attention straight away, as neonatal conjunctivitis can become
Treatment for pink eye varies depending on the cause.
Viral or bacterial conjunctivitis
Many cases of viral pink eye will go away without medical treatment. Cold compresses and lubricating eye drops may help with the symptoms until they get better.
If a person has bacterial pink eye, a doctor may recommend antibiotic ointment or drops. These can help the infection clear up faster and reduce complications.
To help prevent the infection from spreading to both eyes, a person should try to avoid touching or rubbing their eyes. When applying a compress or eye drops, a person should always wash their hands with soap before and after touching the eye area.
A person should not reuse any items that have been in contact with the eye, such as face cloths, towels, or makeup brushes, without cleaning and sterilizing them first. It is also important not to share these items with others. A person should also avoid wearing eye makeup and contact lenses until the symptoms go away.
If the cause of pink eye is allergies, a person can ease their symptoms by limiting their exposure to allergens. A doctor may also prescribe medications such as antihistamines or steroid eye drops, if it is difficult to avoid the trigger.
Doctors will usually give newborns drops or ointments within
If the cause is a blocked tear duct, a caregiver can massage the area between the baby’s eye and nose to help. A doctor may recommend surgery if the blocked tear duct has not cleared up by the time the baby is
Pink eye in both eyes is common. In fact, conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes. Treatment for pink eye will vary depending on the type of infection. Home remedies can help with viral pink eye while the symptoms get better, but if the infection is bacterial, antibiotics may help.
To prevent pink eye from spreading between eyes or to other people, a person should avoid touching their eye and they should wash their hands regularly.