Is Pink Eye Contagious?

March 30, 2023
2 min read
Is Pink Eye Contagious?

If you’ve ever awoken to a sticky, pink or red-colored eye, you know the discomfort of conjunctivitis. More commonly known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is a temporary condition that is uncomfortable and unsightly. Many people wonder if pink eye is contagious. And if so, just how contagious is it?

How Do You Get Pink Eye?

Conjunctiva is a membrane that lines the eyelid. It protects and lubricates the eye using the body’s tears and mucus. It is important for our eyes to stay lubricated at all times. Conjunctiva’s natural lubrication system washes away dust particles, chlorine, and other unnatural elements, keeping the eye clean and smooth.

The conjunctiva is also partially responsible for watching out for threats to the ocular immune system. When the conjunctiva is compromised with inflammation, the healthy, transparent membrane becomes swollen. Rapidly, this can give the sclera (white part of the eye) a bloodshot appearance that turns to an overwhelming pink or red color.

Most times, the cause of pink eye is a viral infection. Allergies and bacterial infections can also bring it on. If an infected person may not be the source of the original infection. Pink eye is transmitted easily from one individual to another.

How Long Is Pink Eye Contagious?

Most pink eye cases are mild and require little to no treatment. The condition does not usually affect a person’s vision. However, in some cases blurred vision occurs. 

When caused by a viral or bacterial infection, it is a condition that spreads easily from person to person. However, if the conjunctivitis developed from an outside allergen or irritant, it is not contagious.

When inflicted with conjunctivitis, a person will inevitably ask, “How long does pink eye last?” Most people who contract pink eye feel eye irritation for 7-14 days. In some cases, pink eye (especially caused by a viral infection) can linger up to three weeks. However, it is rarely a serious condition requiring further treatment.

Treatment of Pink Eye

In most cases, pink eye clears up on its own over the course of 1-2 weeks. Some people with pink eye will apply a cold compress to the infected area to alleviate irritation, dryness, and swelling. 

Eye drops containing artificial tears can help to lubricate the eyeball while the conjunctiva membrane heals. Also, contact lenses irritate pink eye further and should not be worn until the condition fully clears up. 

If the condition is persistent and extremely irritating, a physician can prescribe a topical ointment. Medications like idoxuridine or trifluridine solutions can ease a patient’s symptoms.

Waiting out the Pink Eye

The transmission of pink eye can be minimized by not touching or sharing personal items with others. Practicing good hygiene can also lessen the risk of contracting pink eye (and other viruses). Thoroughly washing your hands before contact with other people is helpful in stopping the spread. If you think you have come in contact with someone who has pink eye, avoid touching your hands to your face or rubbing your eyes.

In children, it is always important to watch for fever. When the sclera becomes white again and no fever is present, the condition has cleared. 

Pink eye can irritate the eye for days or weeks. Being highly contagious, those inflicted often choose to remain home, so as not to spread the virus. When social situations are unavoidable, a person inflicted with pink eye could help stop the spread by keeping their distance from others, washing their hands frequently, and refraining from touching their eyes. 

If you have further questions about pink eye or any other viral or bacterial infections, contact BASS Medical today. We provide the best doctors and individualized treatments for all your medical needs.