Should I Go to the Doctor for Pink Eye?

Pink eye can be a bothersome eye condition, but you might wonder if you should see a doctor when you have it. If your eyes are red, itchy, or have discharge, you may be unsure of what to do. In this article, we’ll help you understand when it’s a good idea to seek medical attention for pink eye. By learning about your options, you can make the best choice for taking care of your eyes.

Eye care patient go to the doctor pink eye

What is Pink Eye?

Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is a common eye problem that can make your eyes feel uncomfortable. It happens when the thin layer covering the white part of your eye and the inside of your eyelids gets swollen. This can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or even an allergic reaction.

When you have pink eye, your eyes may look red and feel itchy. They might produce more tears than usual, and you might notice some gooey discharge. Sometimes, your eyelids can even become swollen. Pink eye can affect one or both eyes at the same time.

It’s important to know that pink eye is easy to spread from person to person. It can pass through touching infected eye secretions, sharing things like towels or makeup, or being close to someone who has it. So, it’s really important to wash your hands often and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.

Most cases of pink eye get better on their own within a week or two, especially if it’s caused by a virus. But if it’s caused by bacteria, you might need to see a doctor for treatment. They can give you special eye drops or ointment to help clear up the infection faster.

Remember, if you think you have pink eye, it’s a good idea to avoid touching your eyes and wash your hands regularly. And if you’re not sure what’s going on or if your symptoms get worse, don’t hesitate to ask a healthcare professional for help. Taking care of your eyes is important to keep them healthy and comfortable.

Different Types of Pink Eye

Pink eye can be divided into three main types: viral, bacterial, and allergic conjunctivitis. Understanding the differences between these types is important to know how to take care of your eyes.

Viral Pink Eye

The most common type is viral conjunctivitis. It happens when a virus, like the ones that cause a cold, infects your eyes. It usually starts in one eye and can spread to the other. Signs of viral pink eye include redness, watery eyes, and itching. You might also have a runny nose or a sore throat.

Taking care of viral pink eye means focusing on relieving symptoms and taking care of yourself. You can use warm compresses on your eyes and over-the-counter lubricating eye drops to ease discomfort. Don’t forget to wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes. Most cases of viral pink eye get better on their own within one to two weeks.

Bacterial Pink Eye

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pneumoniae. It leads to redness, a thick yellow or green discharge that can make your eyelids stick together, and irritation. Bacterial pink eye can affect one or both eyes.

Unlike viral pink eye, bacterial pink eye usually needs medical attention. An eye doctor can check how severe the infection is and prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment to clear the bacterial infection. It’s important to follow the doctor’s instructions and use the prescribed treatment until the infection is fully gone.

Allergic Pink Eye

Allergic conjunctivitis happens when your eyes react to allergens like pollen, pet dander, dust mites, or certain medications. It often leads to itching, redness, and watery eyes. You might also have other allergy symptoms like sneezing or a stuffy nose.

Taking care of allergic pink eye involves avoiding allergens as much as possible. Over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops can help with symptoms, and using a cold compress can bring temporary relief. If your symptoms continue or get worse, it’s a good idea to talk to an eye doctor. They can help decide if you need prescription medications or other treatments.

Remember, it’s important to get the right diagnosis from a healthcare professional to know what type of pink eye you have and how to treat it properly. If you’re not sure about your symptoms or if they’re getting worse, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. Taking care of your eyes is essential to keep them healthy and comfortable.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Knowing when to seek medical attention for pink eye is important to ensure proper care for your eyes. While some cases of pink eye can be managed at home, there are certain situations when it’s best to see a healthcare professional.

Severe Symptoms

If you have severe symptoms that are causing significant discomfort or affecting your daily activities, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. These symptoms may include intense redness, severe eye pain, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light. Seeking medical attention can help determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Prolonged Duration

If your symptoms don’t improve or worsen after a week or two, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional. While viral conjunctivitis often resolves on its own within this timeframe, prolonged symptoms may indicate a different type of infection or a need for additional intervention.


If you develop complications associated with pink eye, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly. These complications can include an eyelid or eye infection, corneal ulceration (an open sore on the cornea), or worsening of pre-existing eye conditions. Seeking professional care will help prevent further complications and ensure appropriate treatment.

Underlying Health Conditions

If you have other health conditions, like a weakened immune system, diabetes, or chronic eye problems, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider if you develop pink eye. These conditions may increase the risk of complications or require specific treatment approaches.

Contact Lens Wearers

If you wear contact lenses and suspect you have pink eye, it’s essential to stop wearing them immediately and consult an eye care professional. Contact lens wear can sometimes contribute to the development or prolongation of pink eye, and proper management is crucial to prevent further eye problems.

Remember, if you’re uncertain about the severity of your symptoms or if you’re experiencing any concerns, it’s always better to seek professional advice. A healthcare professional can evaluate your condition, provide an accurate diagnosis, and offer appropriate guidance to ensure the best care for your eyes.

Self-Care and Home Remedies

Taking care of yourself and practicing self-care at home can help alleviate discomfort and promote healing when dealing with pink eye. Here are some simple tips and home remedies to try.

Good Hygiene Practices

Proper hygiene is crucial to prevent the spread of pink eye and aid in recovery. Remember to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before and after touching your eyes or applying any eye drops or ointments. Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes, as it can worsen the irritation and increase the risk of spreading the infection.

Warm Compresses

Using warm compresses can help soothe the discomfort associated with pink eye. Take a clean, soft washcloth and soak it in warm water. Gently wring out the excess water and place the warm compress over your closed eyelids for a few minutes. This can help reduce redness, relieve itching, and provide temporary relief.

Lubricating Eye Drops

Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops can help alleviate dryness and irritation caused by pink eye. These drops provide moisture to your eyes and can make them feel more comfortable. Follow the instructions on the eye drop packaging and use them as directed to keep your eyes hydrated and relieve symptoms.

Clean and Replace Eye Makeup

If you wear eye makeup, such as mascara or eyeliner, it’s important to avoid using it while you have pink eye. Makeup can harbor bacteria and worsen the infection. Additionally, replace any eye makeup products that you used while infected to prevent reinfection once your pink eye has cleared.

Avoid Contact Lenses

If you wear contact lenses, it’s best to avoid wearing them until your pink eye has completely resolved. Contact lenses can exacerbate the irritation and make it harder for your eyes to heal. Switch to wearing glasses temporarily to allow your eyes to recover fully.

Environmental Allergen Control

If you have allergic conjunctivitis, identifying and minimizing exposure to allergens can help manage symptoms. Keep windows closed during high pollen seasons, use air purifiers to reduce indoor allergens, and avoid rubbing your eyes, as it can worsen the allergic reaction.

While self-care measures and home remedies can provide relief, it’s important to remember that they do not substitute professional medical advice. If your symptoms persist, worsen, or if you have any concerns, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or eye care provider for further evaluation and guidance.

Preventing the Spread of Pink Eye

Preventing the spread of pink eye is crucial to protect yourself and others from getting infected. Here are some practical tips to minimize the spread of pink eye.

Hand Hygiene

Washing your hands frequently and properly is essential in preventing the spread of pink eye. Use warm water and soap, and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Remember to wash your hands before and after touching your eyes, applying any eye drops or ointments, or coming into contact with any potentially contaminated surfaces.

Avoid Touching or Rubbing Your Eyes

Resist the urge to touch or rub your eyes, as this can spread the infection and worsen your symptoms. If your eyes feel itchy or irritated, use a clean tissue or a soft cloth to gently pat or wipe the area around your eyes.

Personal Items

Avoid sharing personal items that come into contact with your eyes, such as towels, washcloths, pillowcases, or eye makeup. Sharing these items can transfer bacteria or viruses and increase the risk of spreading pink eye. Use separate towels and avoid using someone else’s eye makeup or sharing your own until your infection has completely cleared.

Proper Disposal of Tissues and Hygiene Products

Dispose of used tissues or any materials that have come into contact with your eyes in a hygienic manner. Place them in a lined trash bin and promptly wash your hands afterward to prevent the spread of infection.

Clean and Disinfect Surfaces

Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that may come into contact with your eyes or hands, such as countertops, doorknobs, and eyeglasses. Use disinfectant wipes or a solution of water and mild soap to clean these surfaces thoroughly.

Stay Home and Rest

If you have pink eye, it’s advisable to stay home from school or other activities until your symptoms improve and you are no longer contagious. Resting and giving your eyes time to heal can also help speed up your recovery.

Remember, following these preventive measures not only protects yourself but also helps prevent the spread of pink eye to others. By practicing good hygiene, being mindful of personal items, and taking necessary precautions, you contribute to creating a healthier environment for everyone around you.

Making an Informed Decision for Pink Eye Care

Understanding pink eye and knowing when to seek medical attention is crucial for taking care of your eyes. If you have severe symptoms, your symptoms last longer than a week or two, or you have underlying health conditions, it’s important to see a healthcare professional. They can provide the right treatment and guidance to help you recover.

Remember to practice good hygiene, like washing your hands and avoiding touching your eyes, to prevent the spread of pink eye. Taking care of yourself at home with warm compresses, lubricating eye drops, and avoiding contact lenses can also help you feel better.

If you’re unsure about the severity of your symptoms or if you’re experiencing any concerns, it’s always a good idea to ask for help. Healthcare professionals can give you the right advice and make sure you get the best care for your eyes. By taking proper care of your eyes and following these tips, you can help keep them healthy and comfortable.

Always remember that your eyes are precious, and it’s important to take care of them. If you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our caring eye doctors at Tennessee Eye Care. We are here to help you and ensure your eyes stay in the best possible condition.

Need help? Contact our office to schedule an appointment.