Pink eye is common name for "conjunctivitis".  Everyone believes that it spreads by looking at infected person's eye. So let's gather few facts to know how true is it?

Conjunctivitis means swelling of the outer layer of eye (conjunctiva), it can be contagious or non-contagious.

Types of conjunctivitis:

-Allergic conjunctivitis- Symptoms include itching, redness and watering involving both eyes. Due to allergy to some substance or climate change - Non contagious.

-Bacterial conjunctivitis- Symptoms includes discharge , redness, irritation involving both eyes - Contagious.

-Viral conjunctivitis - Symptoms include irritation, photophobia, and watery discharge usually begin in one eye- caused by adenovirus - Highly contagious.

Viral conjunctivitis is most contagious of all types so lets discuss in further details.


Caused by adenoviruses and sometimes enteroviruses. It may accompany the common cold and other systemic viral infections.

Sign and symptoms   -  usually begin in one eye and spreads rapidly to the other.

  • Conjunctival hyperaemia (redness)
  • Watery discharge
  • Ocular irritation (foreign body sensation)
  • Pain near ear (due to pre auricular lymph node enlargement)
  • Fever and throat pain ( due to associated cold)

Symptoms in severe cases:

  • Chemises ( balloon like swelling of conjunctiva),
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to bright light),
  • Membranes of fibrin and inflammatory cells,
  • Corneal sub-epithelial opacities (multiple, coin-shaped, 0.5 to 1.0 mm in diameter) result in decreased vision and significant halos and starbursts.


Viral conjunctivitis is self-limiting, lasting 1 week in mild cases to up to 3 weeks in severe cases.

Treatment is only supportive to reduce discomfort and includes:

  • Lubricating eye drops 
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Cool compresses to reduce swelling on lids
  • No splashing of water inside eyes

Transmission precautions:

Everyone believes that it spreads by looking at infected eye, but that's not true. It spreads by hand transfer so when person suffering from conjunctivitis touches his/her eyes and then touches some where then he /she puts viruses over there like on lift buttons, door knob, railing etc.

As viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, these precautions must be followed:

  • Frequent hand wash ( after touching eyes/ after putting drops)
  • Avoid going to office /school
  • Never share towel, pillow and drops
  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes so you will not transfer viruses to your eyes
  • compresses and measures to prevent spread