Is Pink Eye Painful?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

My little daughter has pinkeye, and I'm trying to do what I can to make her comfortable. Should I give her medicine for pain? Is pinkeye painful?

Doctor's response

There may be some pain with pinkeye.

The leading cause of an inflamed, red eye is viral infection. Adenoviruses are the type of virus that is most commonly responsible for the infection. Other viruses that can cause pinkeye include herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), poxvirus (molluscum contagiosum, vaccinia), picornavirus (enterovirus 70, Coxsackie A24), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Viral conjunctivitis symptoms are usually associated with more of a watery discharge from the eye that is not green or yellow in color. The discharge may resemble an increase in tears or watery eyes. Viral pinkeye is most common in late fall and early spring. Often, common cold symptoms, such as sinus congestion and runny nose, are also present. The eyelids may be swollen or puffy and the inner eyelids reddened. Sometimes looking at bright lights is painful so that the individual experiences sensitivity to light.

While viral pinkeye may not require an antibiotic, those affected should see a doctor, as occasionally this form of pinkeye can be associated with infection of the cornea (the clear portion of the front of the eyeball). This infection must be correctly detected and treated. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and typically remains contagious for 10 to 12 days after the onset of symptoms. The symptoms of viral pinkeye can last one to two weeks. Symptoms are pronounced for the first three to five days after symptoms appear, with slow resolution over the following one to two weeks.

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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>.

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Reviewed on 10/8/2018