Aug 25, 2022

7 Myths vs. Facts About Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye, is a condition that causes the thin tissue inside the eyelids and the white part of the eye to become irritated and inflamed. 

From who can get it to how contagious it is, we debunk the top 7 common myths about pink eye.

Myth #1: Only children can get pink eye


Each year around 6 billionadults and children develop pink eye. 

This eye condition is more common in children because they are more likely to rub their eyes and not practice proper hand hygiene. Pink eye is also easily spread in settings where children are close to each other, like schools or daycare centers.  

Myth #2: There is only one type of pink eye


There are three main types of conjunctivitis:

Viral conjunctivitis

This type of pink eye is the most common and highly contagious. Viral conjunctivitis is caused by viruses associated with the common cold and upper respiratory infections. 

It usually causes:

  • burning

  • watery discharge 

  • red eyes

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria and spreads through contact with other people or insects, poor hygiene, or using contaminated eye makeup and facial lotions. 

The most common symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis are:

  • burning and itching

  • feeling grittiness in the eye

  • pain or discomfort in the eye

  • discharge from the eye that is thick and/or sticky

  • swollen eyelids

Allergic conjunctivitis

Usually affecting both eyes, allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammatory response to allergy-causing substances like pollen, ragweed, and dander. 

The immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE), antibodies that trigger mast cells to release inflammatory substances, such as histamines, into your airways and eyes. 

The histamine release in the body can produce several allergy symptoms, including red or pink eyes that are itchy and watery. 

Myth #3: Pink eye is not contagious


This depends on what type of pink eye you have. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are easily spread from person to person. 

  • Bacterial pink eye is contagious as long as symptoms appear if there is discharge from the eye or until at least 24 hours after starting an antibiotic. 

  • Viral pink eye is contagious even before symptoms develop and can be spread for as long as you have symptoms.

Pink eye caused by allergies is not contagious.

Myth #4: Pink eye will cause you to go blind


Although pink eye is irritating and painful, it usually does not have long-term complications. However, it's critical to keep your eyes healthy. 

If you develop pink eye, it's always best to see your primary healthcare provider. Though rare, untreated conjunctivitis can develop into more complicated issues, like permanent vision loss

Myth #5: There is no correlation between pink eye and COVID-19 


While the most common COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, and fatigue, there's also a list of usual symptoms some people may experience. 

Data shows that the virus that causes COVID-19 can cause pink eye in 1% to 3% of adults. The number might be slightly higher in children. 

It's important to note that eye issues alone aren't usually a sign of COVID-19. But if you have been exposed to the virus and/or symptoms of COVID, you should be tested. 

Myth #6: Babies can't be born with pink eye


Neonatal conjunctivitis is caused by a blocked tear duct, irritation to the eye, or an infection. 

Common types of neonatal conjunctivitis include:

Babies born with chlamydial or gonococcal conjunctivitis are at risk for developing severe lung and spinal cord infections. 

Myth #7: Pink eye will go away on its own


Most of the time, there is no special treatment for pink eye. Treatment like cold compressions and over-the-counter eye drops can provide relief from inflammation and dryness. 

However, depending on the conjunctivitis type, you may need an antibiotic, such as ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, or tobramycin. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends consulting your doctor if you have pink eye symptoms and any of the following: 

Ways to prevent pink eye

Prevention is key to not getting or spreading pink eye. By utilizing these simple steps, you can reduce your risk:

  • Practice good handwashing hygiene

  • Don't touch or rub your eyes. If you do, thoroughly wash your hands right away

  • Never share makeup products or tools.

  • Don't share pillows, towels, or clothes with someone with pink eye.

  • Throw away eye makeup and brushes used during infection

  • Replace disposable contacts and contact lens cases used during infection 

  • Clean and disinfect eyeglasses and eyeglasses cases 

  • Wash pillowcases, sheets, towels, and washcloths in hot water

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