Is Pink Eye Contagious?


Quick Answer

Pink eye is contagious. People frequently touch their eyes, and viruses, bacteria and other irritants are transferred via one's fingertips. Pink eye spreads when one touches a contaminated surface and then touches one's own eyes.

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Full Answer

According to Livescience, the pink eye virus spreads from the fingertips of an infected person to surfaces such as keyboards, and it can be transmitted to other people when they touch their eyes after touching such surfaces. WebMD explains that the main cause of the spread of pink eye is poor hand washing. The sharing of items such as towels and washcloths can also spread this infection.

Symptoms of pinkeye typically last for five to seven days and resolve on their own, according to WebMD. In some cases, particularly in people with weakened immune systems, pinkeye can last longer, for up to three weeks, and can become a chronic condition. Symptoms of pinkeye include a redness in the white area of the eye, itching eyes, a thick discharge and swelling of the eyes. When pinkeye is caused by a virus, patients can typically return to normal activities when symptoms begin to improve after three to five days. In some cases, pinkeye is caused by the herpes virus, and in this case, antiviral medication is typically used.

Bacterial infections also can cause pinkeye, and these tend to produce more drainage than a more typical viral infection, according to WebMD. Caused by staph bacteria, gonorrhea and other types of bacteria, these infections typically go away on their own in seven to 10 days without treatment or two to four days when using antibiotics.

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