What Will Happen if Pinkeye Is Left Untreated?

  • 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

I caught pinkeye from my preschooler. It's annoying, but the infection seems mild enough. My life is very hectic, and I'd just as soon not go to the doctor. Are there home remedies for pinkeye? Will pinkeye go away by itself? What will happen if pinkeye is left untreated?

Doctor's response

If you have pinkeye, you should seek medical help.

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.

Home treatment for pinkeye should not be a substitute for seeking the advice of a health-care professional, and it is important to take all medications as prescribed and to follow a health-care professional's instructions for managing the condition. However, there are home remedies to help relieve the symptoms of pinkeye. Moist warm compresses applied to the eyes can help relieve symptoms. OTC treatments like artificial tears (eye drops) can also bring relief.

Do not wear contact lenses until the pinkeye has resolved. A health-care professional can offer guidance about when it is safe to resume the use of contact lenses. Eye makeup and cosmetic creams should also be avoided in the eye area until the symptoms and signs have resolved.

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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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 10/5/2018