Can You Go Blind from Pinkeye?

Ask the experts

I've had pinkeye for a few days now and it doesn't seem to be getting better. I don't have health insurance, so I want to avoid the doctor's office. I'm worried about long-term complications, though. Can you go blind from pinkeye?

Doctor's response

You can go blind from pinkeye, but most uncomplicated cases of pinkeye heal completely without long-term complications. Pinkeye that is related to underlying diseases may recur over time. Some serious infections of the eye may lead to vision loss when not treated properly, so it is important to seek care for severe or persistent pinkeye, or pinkeye that is associated with decreased vision.

Pinkeye, or conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the membranes (conjunctiva) covering the white parts of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids. These membranes react to a wide range of bacteria, viruses, allergy-provoking agents, irritants, and toxic agents, as well as to underlying diseases within the body. Viral and bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are common in childhood, but they occur in adults as well. Pinkeye can occur in people of any age. Overall, however, there are many causes of pinkeye. These can be classified as either infectious or noninfectious.

Infectious forms of pinkeye are highly contagious and are spread by direct contact with infected people. If someone has infectious pinkeye, avoid touching the eye area and wash the hands frequently, particularly after applying medications to the eye area. Never share towels or handkerchiefs, and throw away tissues after each use. Disinfecting surfaces like countertops, sinks, and doorknobs can also help prevent the spread of infectious pinkeye.

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Reviewed on 10/8/2018
References
Boyd, Kierstan. "Conjunctivitis: What Is Pink Eye?" American Academy of Ophthalmology. Mar. 1, 2017.

Yeung, Karen K. "Bacterial Conjunctivitis." Medscape.com. Dec. 4, 2015. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1191730-overview>.