What are the Signs of Pink Eye in Adults?

B. Miller

The symptoms of pink eye in adults are similar to the symptoms found in children, in whom the condition is much more common. Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is highly contagious and easily spread, and may be caused by viral or bacterial infections; some people also get pink eye from allergies, which is not contagious. The most common symptoms include severe redness in one or both eyes, itching, tearing or watering eyes, and discharge from the eyes that may have a yellow or green color to it. Pink eye in adults will typically need to be treated with antibiotics.

Eye drops can be used to remedy the effects of pink eye.
Eye drops can be used to remedy the effects of pink eye.

A pronounced redness in the eyes is the most common symptom of pink eye in adults. Though it can occur in just one eye, most infections spread to both eyes before one notices that pink eye has been contracted. The whites of the eyes become quite red and inflamed, and the eyes may actually be painful. Some people also notice redness around the edges of the eye and under the eyelids, which can become slightly swollen. Blurred vision may also occur, and it is important not to wear contacts while symptoms of pink eye are present, which can cause the condition to worsen.

Accompanied by the characteristic redness, pink eye in adults often causes the eyes to become itchy and watery. This is especially true when the pink eye is caused by an allergic reaction to something in the environment. Another common symptom involves a thicker discharge from the eyes, which often looks yellowish or greenish in appearance. People often feel like the eyes have sand or grit in them, making them even more irritated. This also often causes the eyes to be crusted shut when one wakes up in the morning with pink eye; the application of a warm washcloth can help to get the eyes open.

Because pink eye in adults and children is so contagious, it is very important not to touch the eyes if symptoms appear, and to wash the hands regularly. It will be necessary to visit the doctor for treatment, which will typically include antibiotic eye drops if the pink eye is caused by a bacterial infection. Pink eye is still contagious during treatment, so it is important to continue to be vigilant and not reuse or share pillowcases or towels. It typically takes a few days to a few weeks for pink eye in adults to clear up.

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