Most cases of contagious pinkeye are a type of viral conjunctivitis, a viral infection involving the moist tissue layer that covers the eye and lines the inner eyelids. The eyeball itself is usually not affected. The infectious agent is typically a common cold virus, that’s why conjunctivitis is often described as a ‘cold in the eye’. Don’t blame me – I didn’t coin that expression!
Viral conjunctivitis often starts in one eye but eventually involves both eyes. It is extremely contagious. Like a cold, the inflammation will subside in 5-7 days.
Viral pinkeye features a watery discharge, not goopy pus (more often bacterial). You may feel a swollen lymph node right in front of the ear alongside the upper jaw area. Antibiotic eyedrops only kill bacteria so they are unnecessary. Besides, antibiotic eyedrops sting and may make the inflamed eye even more red.
So, what to do? Wash your hands frequently to protect others. Use a clean washcloth to remove and crust or debris from around the eyes. Apply artificial tears for temporary comfort but never (yes, never) share the eyedrop bottle with others.
If things fail to improve after 7 days or if you develop pain, poor vision, or a pus-like discharge seek help from your local eye doctor.