Olympia Optometrist's Guide to Understanding Pink Eye: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Published on
January 27, 2023

Bacterial conjunctivitis is a prevalent condition globally. In the US, it affects 135 out of every 10,000 people each year, making up about 1% of all primary care appointments.

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a common condition that causes the eye to appear pink and red. It can also cause discharge and discomfort. In this blog, we will go over the basics of pink eye, including the different types, symptoms, and treatment options.

What you need to know about different types of pink eye

There are three main types of pink eye: viral, bacterial, and allergic.

  • Viral pink eye - This is the most common type and is often referred to as "classic pink eye." It typically presents with red, watery eyes and minimal mucus discharge. It can be irritating or itchy, but is usually not painful. This type of pink eye is highly contagious, so it's important to keep your hands clean and avoid sharing towels, linens, or anything that comes into contact with the eye. It is recommended to schedule an eye exam and stay home for at least three to seven days after symptoms appear.
  • Bacterial pink eye - This type of pink eye is similar to viral pink eye in that it can cause red eyes and can easily spread from one eye to the other. However, it is characterized by more mucus discharge and can be more painful. It is important to see an eye doctor for treatment with antibiotics to control the infection. Like viral pink eye, it is recommended to stay home until symptoms have minimized or for 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotics.
  • Allergic pink eye - This type of pink eye is caused by an allergic reaction or irritation. It can cause red, watery eyes, swelling, and itching. Both eyes are usually affected at the same time. It is not contagious, so there is no need to limit close contact with others. Treatment options include over-the-counter allergy eyedrops or prescribed steroid drops to reduce inflammation.

Other causes of red eyes or pink eye 

One of the important reasons to see our eye doctor in Olympia for pink eye or red eye is because there are so many potential causes, and it is important to identify the cause of the symptoms in order to provide the best treatment and prevent any potential vision complications. 

While some of the following may be uncommon, a longer list was included to show why symptoms of red eye may not always be what you think and should be evaluated by our optometrist.

Some examples of why our eyes may be red include: 

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye) - an infection of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or allergens and is characterized by red, swollen, and itchy eyes.
  • Allergies - an overreaction of the immune system to certain allergens such as pollen, mold, or pet dander. It can cause red, itchy, and watery eyes.
  • Dry eyes - a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. It can cause redness, burning, and stinging sensations.
  • Blepharitis - an inflammation of the eyelids, which can be caused by bacterial or sebaceous gland dysfunction. It is characterized by red, swollen, and itchy eyelids, and can also cause crusting or flaking of the eyelashes.
  • Uveitis - an inflammation of the uvea, which is the middle layer of the eye. It can cause redness, pain, light sensitivity, and vision changes.
  • Glaucoma - a group of eye disorders that can cause increased pressure in the eye and damage to the optic nerve. It can cause redness, eye pain, and vision changes.
  • Trauma - an injury to the eye that can cause redness, swelling, and pain. This can include blunt trauma such as a black eye, or a penetrating injury from a foreign object.
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage - a small blood vessel in the eye that breaks and causes a red or pink spot on the white of the eye. It is usually benign and requires no treatment, but can be caused by trauma, high blood pressure, or other underlying health conditions.
  • Corneal abrasion - a scratch or scrape on the clear front surface of the eye (cornea). It can cause redness, pain, and sensitivity to light.
  • Foreign body in the eye - an object that gets trapped in the eye, causing redness, pain, and discomfort.
  • Herpes simplex virus - a viral infection that can cause redness, pain, and blisters on the eyelid and the eye.
  • Herpes zoster virus - a viral infection that can cause redness, pain, and blisters on the eyelid and the eye.
  • Adenovirus - a viral infection that can cause redness, pain, and blisters on the eyelid and the eye.
  • Chlamydia trachomatis - a bacterial infection that can cause redness, pain, and discharge in the eye.
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae - a bacterial infection that can cause redness, pain, and discharge in the eye.
  • Staphylococcus aureus - a bacterial infection that can cause redness, pain, and discharge in the eye.
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae - a bacterial infection that can cause redness, pain, and discharge in the eye
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae - a bacterial infection that can cause redness, pain, and discharge in the eye.
  • Haemophilus influenzae - a bacterial infection that can cause redness, pain, and discharge in the eye.
  • Moraxella catarrhalis - a bacterial infection that can cause redness, pain, and discharge in the eye.
  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma - a medical emergency in which the pressure inside the eye suddenly increases, leading to severe eye pain, redness, and vision changes. It requires immediate medical attention. It's important to keep in mind that red eyes or pink eye can have multiple causes, and it's crucial to visit an optometrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

It is important to note that some of the causes of red eyes can be serious and require medical attention, while others are minor and can be treated at home. It is important to visit an optometrist if you are experiencing red eyes, especially if it is frequent, or is accompanied by pain, vision changes or discharge.

Consulting an eye doctor in Olympia for pink eye: when to seek help

Pink eye can cause a range of symptoms, including redness, discharge, and discomfort. However, it is important to see an eye doctor to understand the cause of your symptoms and address them. If you experience any changes in vision or if the symptoms worsen, schedule an emergency eye exam right away. The most common type of pink eye, viral conjunctivitis, usually goes away on its own and does not require medication, but should still be seen by our optometrist.If you are unsure of what type of pink eye you have or if you are concerned about something, it is always best to get it checked out.

Visit our eye doctor in Olympia for pink eye

If you suspect you have symptoms of red eye or pink eye or are experiencing any changes in vision, it is important to see our eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. At our clinic, we have the knowledge and experience to help you manage your condition and help you return to your daily activities. Don't hesitate to reach out to us at (360) 491-2121 and schedule an appointment, we're here to help.

Patients searching for emergency eye exams visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of emergency eye care services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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