Pink Eye: Conjunctivitis

Getting pink eyes can significantly hinder your eyesight and is highly contagious to boot. Here’s what you need to know about pink eye, its effects, and how it spreads.

By URLife Team
31 Aug 2023

Panic might set in, accompanied by a surge of questions. What is causing this unusual change? Is it contagious? Conjunctivitis, often referred to as pink eye due to its signature appearance, is the common culprit.


According to a 2023 report by Press Trust of India, a private eye care hospital in Delhi recorded 1,032 conjunctivitis cases, while the total number of cases across India was around 1,521. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis can spread like wildfire, especially in close-contact environments like schools and workplaces. Even simple acts like touching an infected surface and then rubbing your eyes can facilitate transmission.


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What causes and symptoms of pink eyes?

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the thin, transparent tissue called the conjunctiva that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelids. This condition gets its name from the characteristic pink or red appearance of the eyes due to the inflamed blood vessels in the conjunctiva.


Conjunctivitis stems from the inflammation of the conjunctiva—a thin, transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye and the inner eyelids. This inflammation can be triggered by various factors, each with its distinct characteristics. The symptoms of pink eye can vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition (bacterial, viral, allergic, or irritant). Here are some common symptoms associated with each type:

1. Bacterial Conjunctivitis

  • Red or pink appearance of the eye
  • Watery or mucous discharge that can be yellow or green in color
  • Crusty eyelids or lashes, particularly in the morning
  • Itchy or gritty sensation
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Mild discomfort or pain
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)


2. Viral Conjunctivitis

  • Redness of the eye
  • Watery discharge that may become more stringy over time
  • Itching and irritation
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tearing
  • Cold or upper respiratory symptoms (sore throat, runny nose)


3. Allergic Conjunctivitis

  • Intense itching of the eyes
  • Redness and watering of the eyes
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Clear, watery discharge
  • Often associated with other allergy symptoms like sneezing and a runny nose


4. Irritant Conjunctivitis

  • Redness and irritation of the eyes
  • Watery discharge
  • Gritty or foreign body sensation in the eyes
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Increased sensitivity to irritants like smoke or wind


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How does pink eye spread?

If you acquire bacterial conjunctivitis, you remain contagious while displaying symptoms or for approximately 24 to 48 hours after commencing antibiotic treatment. In the case of viral conjunctivitis, you continue to be contagious as long as you exhibit symptoms, which typically lasts for several days.


Pink eye (conjunctivitis) can spread through various modes of transmission, depending on the underlying cause of the condition. The ways in which pink eye can spread include:

1. Direct Contact

The most common way pink eye spreads is through direct contact with the eye secretions of an infected person. This can occur when an infected person touches their eyes and then touches objects or surfaces. If another person touches those contaminated objects or surfaces and then touches their own eyes, the infection can be transmitted.


2. Airborne Transmission

Viral conjunctivitis, in particular, can be spread through airborne respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can contain the virus and land on surfaces or be inhaled by others.


3. Close Contact

Close personal contact, such as hugging, kissing, or sharing personal items like towels or pillowcases, can facilitate the spread of infectious agents responsible for pink eye.


4. Poor Hygiene

Not practicing good hand hygiene, such as not washing hands after touching the eyes or face, can contribute to the spread of pink eye.


5. Contact Lenses

Improper care of contact lenses or wearing them when the eyes are infected can also lead to the spread of conjunctivitis.


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How to prevent eye conjunctivitis from spreading to others?

If you suspect you have pink eye, especially if it's accompanied by symptoms like redness, discharge, and discomfort, it's recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance on how to manage and prevent its spread.


To prevent the spread of contagious forms of pink eye, it's important to follow good hygiene practices, such as:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after touching the eyes or face.
  • Avoid touching or rubbing the eyes with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like towels, pillows, and cosmetics.
  • If you or your child has pink eyes, avoid close contact with others, particularly in schools, daycare settings, and other crowded environments, until a healthcare professional confirms that  it’s not contagious anymore.


Not all cases of red or pink eyes are caused by conjunctivitis. Other eye conditions, such as dry eyes, uveitis, or keratitis, can also cause similar symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of pink eye, it's advisable to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) or a healthcare professional can help determine the underlying cause and recommend the best course of action.


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Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have pink eyes. Taking regular health checks can help detect pink eye at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.



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