So your eyes are red, irritated, and oozing gross discharge. What’s going on here? Could it be the dreaded pink eye? Before you start freaking out, take our handy pink eye quiz to get some answers!
We’ve all woken up with crusty sleep in our eyes at some point. But if the redness, goop, irritation, and other fun symptoms don’t disappear after a good eye scrub, it might be time to consider something more serious like conjunctivitis.
This article will cover all things pink eye so you can figure out if your peepers are suffering from this common eye infection. We’ll equip you with info on causes, symptoms, treatment options and even mythbust some prevention techniques. Oh and of course, we’ve got an interactive quiz to help diagnose your eye woes! Let’s get started, shall we?
Pink Eye Basics
To understand if you have pink eye, it helps to first understand what exactly conjunctivitis is. Conjunctivitis is the medical term for inflammation of the conjunctiva – that’s the clear membrane covering your eyeball and lining your eyelids.
When the blood vessels in the conjunctiva get inflamed, it causes the whites of your eyes to turn various lovely shades of pink and red – hence the cute nickname “pink eye.” Real original, medical professionals.
Pink eye is crazy common. In fact, 3 million Americans battle cases of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis every year. It spreads easily in settings like schools, daycares and offices. So if Sally in accounting comes in looking like a rabbit, best keep your distance!
There are 3 main types of pink eye:
- Viral conjunctivitis – caused by the same bugs behind colds and respiratory infections
- Bacterial conjunctivitis – happens when bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or Haemophilus influenzae get trapped under your eyelid
- Allergic conjunctivitis – triggered by environmental allergens like pollen, pet dander or mold
You generally get viral pink eye from sharing towels, pillowcases or makeup with an infected person. Catching bacterial pink eye takes closer contact like shaking hands or coughing. Allergic conjunctivitis isn’t contagious – only direct contact with irritants can spark symptoms.
Is pink eye actually contagious though? Keep reading to find out!
Recognizing Pink Eye Symptoms
Wondering “do I have pink eye?” Get familiar with some hallmark symptoms:
Redness & Irritation
Bloodshot, pink or red eyes are obviously the main sign of conjunctivitis. You’ll also likely experience irritation, itching, burning and the feeling there’s something in your eye. Light sensitivity can also increase tearing and discomfort.
Thick yellow or green mucus-like discharge is common with bacterial pink eye. Viral discharge is often thinner and more watery. Rubbing your irritated eyes can cause yucky crusting.
Don’t be surprised if you wake up with gross gunk sealing your eyelashes together. Awesome.
Blurry vision can happen if swelling and discharge distortion the cornea’s ability to refract light properly. You may also experience decreased sharpness and clarity while infected.
Grittiness & Heaviness
That annoying “something is stuck in my eye” sensation might indicate viral or bacterial pink eye. Your eyes may feel gritty and heavy too.
So to sum up – if your eyes are pink, goopy, crusty and feel absolutely disgusting, pink eye is probably the culprit!
Pink Eye or Allergies?
Seasonal allergies can also turn your eyes red, watery and irritated. How are allergy eye symptoms different than infectious pink eye? Let’s compare.
Allergic conjunctivitis discharge is often:
- Clear and watery
- Cause by environmental allergens like pollen or pet dander
- Goes hand-in-hand with other allergy symptoms like sneezing and sinus congestion
With infectious pink eye, you’ll likely experience:
- Colored discharge – often yellow or green
- Exposure to someone else with pink eye
- No concurrent allergy symptoms
So if your eyes alone are affected, you’re likely battling a virus or bacteria. Itching and watering are also more common with allergies than infectious pink eye. Pay attention to discharge color and quality too!
The bottom line – if you’re unsure whether your symptoms are allergies or something more serious, see your eye doctor or allergist. Proper diagnosis is key for the right treatment.
Who’s At Risk for Pink Eye?
While anyone can develop conjunctivitis, some groups have higher odds including:
- School kids – outbreaks happen easily in crowded classrooms
- Contact lens wearers – poor lens hygiene ups infection risk
- People with eye trauma or injury – tear duct damage can introduce bacteria
- Those with compromised immunity – makes fighting infection harder
- Individuals with chronic health issues like diabetes or eczema
Even if you don’t fall into an at-risk group, follow prevention tips later in this article to avoid pesky pink eye!
Pink Eye Complications
Left untreated, pink eye can lead to worsening eye health issues including:
The cornea has lots of sensitive nerves. Severe inflammation can disrupt normal nerve signaling causing decreased corneal sensitivity. Loss of proper sensation can then lead to further injury.
When discharge, swelling and pus accumulation goes unchecked, loss of vision can happen. The infection can even perforate the cornea requiring transplant. Yikes!
Catching and treating conjunctivitis early minimizes these scary risks!
Getting a Pink Eye Diagnosis
If after taking our quiz you suspect pink eye, call your eye doctor to schedule an appointment. Double check they have enhanced disinfection protocols in the COVID era too.
During the visit, they’ll ask about your symptoms, medical history and recent exposures. Then it’s time for an eye exam! Stand by for all sorts of uncomfortable closeness and intense lights.
They’ll check for key pink eye signs like discharge, redness, swelling, eyelid inflammation and light sensitivity. Eye exams and vision tests assess how well you can see. They’ll likely use equipment to magnify and examine your eyes too.
Cultures or viral antigen tests may help identify the specific causative virus or bacteria. This informs treatment to target the infection properly and minimize antibiotic resistance.
Treating Pink Eye
For mild allergy-related cases, over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops can provide relief without a doctor visit.
However, most cases of viral and bacterial conjunctivitis require prescription antibiotic eye drops or ointments. Treatment durations vary from 1-2 weeks. Be sure to finish the entire course to prevent recurrence!
Other prescription pink eye medication includes:
- Steroid eye drops – when significant inflammation causes eye pain and light sensitivity
- Decongestants – shrink blood vessels to ease redness
- Antihistamines – mast cell stabilizers that curb allergic reactions
You can supplement medical treatment with home remedies to manage irritation:
- Cool compresses – wet clean cloth applied to closed eyes
- Artificial tears – lubricates and flushes out eyes
- Hot showers – steam loosens discharge to clean eyes easier
Avoid sharing towels or pillowcases during an outbreak so you don’t keep reinfecting yourself. And toss out old makeup to avoid reintroducing lingering bacteria.
Following doctor’s orders, most viral and bacterial pink eye clears within 1-2 weeks. Allergic conjunctivitis takes 7-14 days to improve too.
Your eyes should look less red, feel more comfortable and have only minimal goop. Vision should be clearer too. Call your doc if symptoms persist longer than 2 weeks. You may need additional medication or evaluation to rule out other issues.
What are the symptoms of pink eye that I should look out for in the interactive quiz?
Take Our Quiz!
Think you might have pink eye but want to double check your symptoms? Take our interactive pink eye quiz now!
Our quiz asks you questions about:
- Specific eye symptoms
- Possible triggers and exposures
- Medical history factors
- Lifestyle risks
Based on your responses, we’ll assess your likelihood of having:
- Viral pink eye
- Bacterial pink eye
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- No infection at all!
We’ll even give you a custom recommendation on next steps – whether that’s home treatment, seeing an optometrist or making an appointment with your allergist.
No more guessing if your mystery eye discomfort is no biggie or a brewing case of contagious conjunctivitis! Our quiz gives helpful advice you can trust.
[Start Quiz Here]
Preventing Pink Eye
Want to avoid battling viral or bacterial pink eye again? Here are helpful prevention tips:
Practice Eye Hygiene
- No sleeping in contacts
- Properly clean contact lenses
- Don’t share eye makeup
- Replace old mascara every 3 months
- Only use sterile contact lens solution
- Don’t swim with contacts in
Control Allergy Flare-ups
- Wash hands before and after inserting contacts
- Shower after high pollen exposure
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water
- Ask doctor about allergy meds/shots
- Limit time outdoors during height of season
- Keep pets out of bedroom
Strengthen Immune Health
- Eat nutritious diet with fruits and veggies
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Take probiotic supplement if needed
- Consider immune boosting vitamins
Wear Protective Eyewear
- Sunglasses outside
- Goggles in pool or hot tub
- Safety goggles certain work tasks
- Ski goggles winter sports
- Face shield chemical cleaning jobs
Proper hygiene and avoiding infection exposure reduce pink eye risk substantially. But even if you take all the recommended precautions, conjunctivitis sometimes still strikes.
Stuck battling an episode of viral or bacterial pink eye? Use our tips above to find relief fast and prevent recurrence. No one wants chronically infected mad pink eyes!
The Bottom Line
Dealing with pink eye is zero fun. But a mild case usually clears up fast at home. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or vision declines.
Next time your eyes turn ridiculously red and crusty, take our interactive pink eye quiz to decode what’s plaguing your peepers. Don’t forget to share with family too – quicker diagnosis means faster recovery.
Hope our tips help you pinpoint whether your eyes are suffering from infectious pink eye or just plain allergies. Thanks for joining us and happy eye health to all!