Pink Eye

What infections cause pink eye, what are infectious pink eye symptoms, and how are they treated?

Viral pink eye

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

Viral pink eye symptoms are usually associated with more of a watery discharge that is not green or yellow in color. Viral pink eye is most common in late fall and early spring. Often, viral "cold-like" symptoms, such as sinus congestion and runny nose, are also present. The eyelids may be swollen. Sometimes looking at bright lights is painful.

While viral pink eye may not require an antibiotic, those affected should see a doctor, as occasionally this form of pink eye 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 pink eye is highly contagious and typically remains contagious for 10 to 12 days after the onset of symptoms. The symptoms of viral pink eye can last 1 to 2 weeks. Symptoms are pronounced for the first three to five days after symptoms appear, with slow resolution over the following one to two weeks.

Reviewed on 2/14/2014