Dry and pink eye share certain symptoms, making it difficult for someone to tell the difference between them. An eye doctor can make a proper diagnosis.
Symptoms of pink and dry eye include swelling, itching, or redness, which can also be due to allergies, infections, or dehydration. Although these two conditions have similar symptoms, they require different treatments. Understanding which of these conditions a person has can lead to more effective treatment.
This article explains how pink eye and dry eye differ. It also discusses how they affect the eyes and whether dry eye can lead to pink eye. It also explains how to treat both conditions and when to seek medical help.
Dry eye occurs when a person’s tear glands are not producing sufficient tears to coat and lubricate the eye.
Pink eye is a condition that causes an infection or swelling of the conjunctiva, the thin transparent membrane covering the eyelid’s inner surface and the whites of the eyes. The proper medical name for pink eye is conjunctivitis. It can be the result of infections, allergies, or injury.
Pink eye and dry eye share
|swelling of the conjunctiva or eyelids
|excess tear production
|feeling as though something is in the eye
|burning or stinging
|crust on eyelids or eyelashes upon waking
|sensitivity to wind or smoke
|difficulty keeping eyes open
|discomfort when wearing, removing, or putting in contacts
|eyelids stuck together upon waking
The main symptom of pink eye that does not usually occur with dry eye is itchiness. The main symptom present with dry eye that does not usually occur with pink eye is a gritty sensation in the eye. Dry eye can also be chronic, which generally does not occur with pink eye.
Typically, mild cases of dry eye do not lead to serious complications. However, severe or persistent dry eye may lead to scarring or scratches to the cornea.
With pink eye, infection or swelling causes
A severe case of dry eye can lead to a higher likelihood of developing pink eye.
Tears protect the eyes from inflammation and infection. So, if a person’s eyes do not produce enough tears, this can increase the likelihood of developing pink eye.
However, it is worth noting that one older
Despite their similar symptoms, treatments for the two conditions differ.
The treatments for dry eye
- Over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops: Eye drops such as artificial tears or moisturizing gels and ointments can provide relief from symptoms.
- Prescription medications: For more severe cases of dry eye, a doctor may prescribe medications, such as cyclosporine or lifitegrast, both of which can help the eyes produce more tears.
- Lifestyle changes: This usually involves avoiding irritants or allergens, such as wind, smoke, too much screen time, or exposure to bright sunlight. Good sleep hygiene and proper hydration can also help.
According to the
- Most cases of mild bacterial pink eye resolve within 2-5 days. However, it can take up to 2 weeks for it to clear completely.
- If pink eye is due to a virus, it may take 2-3 weeks to completely clear.
- Allergy medication and eye drops can help if pink eye is due to an allergy.
A healthcare professional may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment for bacterial pink eye to reduce the length of the infection, the risk of spreading pink eye to others, and the risk of complications.
It is also important with viral or bacterial pink eye for individuals to wash their hands regularly and avoid touching their eyes to prevent spreading the infection to others.
A person should seek medical care if they experience the following:
- reduced vision
- pain in the eye
- eye swelling or tenderness worsens
- fever, which can indicate infection
- symptoms occur after scratching the surface of the eye
If a person experiences symptoms of pink eye, they may want to consider speaking with a healthcare professional about treatment.
Below are some questions people frequently ask about dry eye and pink eye.
What other conditions can people mistake for pink eye?
Dry eye and pink eye have some overlapping symptoms and people may mistake one for the other. Other conditions a person may mistake for pink eye
- corneal ulcer
- corneal abrasion
- subconjunctival hemorrhage
What is the first day of pink eye like?
The first day of a pink eye infection is typically the most uncomfortable phase. The severity of symptoms tends to increase until around
Due to their similar symptoms, people may have trouble discerning whether they have dry eye or pink eye. If a person is unsure which condition they are experiencing, they can contact a doctor for a diagnosis.
Treatments for dry eye include OTC and prescription eye drops, as well as lifestyle and habit changes. Pink eye typically resolves without treatment within a few days to 2 weeks. However, antibiotics can relieve symptoms and help reduce the length of time the condition persists.
If a person experiences symptoms that affect their eyes, a healthcare professional can ensure they are not due to an underlying infection or condition.