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How can I tell if I have pink eye?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

You should talk to your doctor if you or your child experience any symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye). Pink eye is an uncomfortable and very contagious infection, but it can be treated in some cases. Your doctor will do tests to determine the cause of your infection. In some cases, you doctor may suggest taking certain medications for relief. Symptoms of epidemic conjunctivitis pink eye are swollen, irritated, watery eyes. You may also experience reddened eyes that occasionally burn and your vision may appear fuzzy. Cold symptoms are often present and the lymph nodes that surround your neck and ears may also become enlarged.

A stye near your child's eye could be a sign that your child is at risk for ocular rosacea, even though the condition is more common in adults than in children. Monitor your child's eyes for signs of redness, dryness, or itchiness. Be sure to speak with your pediatrician if you notice any styes. Keep your child's eyes clean and make sure to follow the pediatrician's recommendations for medication.

Dr. Aaron P. Weingeist, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is most often a viral infection in adults. Common symptoms include: red eye, watery discharge, and crusting of the lids and lashes in the morning. It can be associated with a cold or upper respiratory infection. The infection often involves one eye first and then the other within a day or two.

Your Eye M.D. can help you distinguish between different types of red eyes. You should be seen if you develop symptoms in one eye only, if you are a contact lens wearer, or if your symptoms are not typical.

You should call the doctor about your child’s pinkeye (bacterial conjunctivitis) if your child develops symptoms such as eye redness accompanied by green or yellow pus, vision becoming blurry, eyes being sensitive to light, eye pain or swelling and inability to open eyes due to pain or sensitivity. Pinkeye is fairly common and unlikely to cause long-term vision or eye problems if promptly treated.

Dr. David K. Coats, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

The term "pink eye" is often used to refer to an eye infection. Eye infections are usually caused by a virus or a bacteria. It is usually not possible to determine the cause of an eye infection just by looking. Cultures are sometimes needed to determine the cause of the most serious infections.

Call your child’s doctor if:

  • He is not better after three days on the medicine.
  • There is more swelling, redness or pain around the eyes.
  • He develops a fever (temperature over 100.4°F orally or rectally).
  • His vision becomes blurred (except for the short time after the eye ointment is applied).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.