What is Viral Pink Eye?

Article Details
  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2018
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Viral pink eye is pink eye caused by a virus. Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a clear membrane that covers the whites of the eyes and the inside of eyelids. Viral pink eye is contagious and can be passed from eye to eye and from person to person. Except for the body’s defenses, there is no cure for this type of pink eye. Most medicines are aimed at reducing symptoms rather than eradicating the virus.

Symptoms of viral pink eye include redness of the eye and swelling of the conjunctiva. A person may also feel discomfort or itching in the eye, and may notice a watery discharge from the eye. It may not always be obvious when a person has viral pink eye, however. The virus’ incubation period, which is the length of time it takes for symptoms to manifest, can take up to several days.

It's important to remember that because of this incubation period, a person may be contagious before symptoms appear, and the contagiousness can continue until symptoms clear up. During this time, a person with the virus, as well as those around him, should be careful not to spread or catch the virus. Because viral pink eye can easily spread from one person to another, patients are often advised to stay home from school or work in order to help prevent the spread of the disease.


Patients with viral pink eye also should wash their hands often. The irritation that often accompanies pink eye can cause a person to rub his eyes. If he then touches an object, the virus can transfer onto that object and be picked up by someone else who touches the object. The virus can also be spread if a person shares an object, such as a pillow or towel, or if a person uses a contaminated object near the eyes. In addition, a person can also re-infect himself if he uses contaminated personal objects, such as inadequately cleaned contact lenses, after his pink eye has cleared up.

The viruses that cause many common ailments can also be responsible for causing viral pink eye. For example, the virus that causes a cold, a respiratory infection, a sore throat, or other ailments can also cause pink eye. Viral pink eye is not usually dangerous and often clears up on its own. There are times when the disease can cause blindness or other problems, but those times are rare.



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