Employee & Community Health

Reminder: Pinkeye treatment has changed

8/5/2019 by Kristine Penza, APRN, CNP

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Scratchy, red eyes and goopy drainage. Could it be pinkeye (conjunctivitis)? Rather than call your care team or head to Mayo Clinic Express Care, try home cares. They're now considered the first line of treatment for pinkeye. 

Most cases of pinkeye are caused by a virus; antibiotic drops or ointments won't do anything to help alleviate the symptoms or make you less contagious. For bacterial pinkeye, antibiotic drops have been shown to decrease the length of symptoms by eight hours. Both viral and bacterial pinkeye typically go away on their own. 

Eye symptoms may occur alone, but with viral conjunctivitis you may also experience a runny nose, sore throat, cough or fever. If you're having any of the following symptoms, you should be evaluated: 

  • Any eye pain that is more than mild
  • Blurry vision that doesn't clear with wiping away discharge
  • Vision loss
  • Warm, red swelling that extends beyond the eyelid
  • Worsening symptoms after three days with no associated cold symptoms

Certain groups of patients should also be seen, including infants less than 6 months old, immunocompromised patients, contact lens wearers experiencing any eye pain, and anyone with recent trauma or surgery to or around the eye. 

Home cares for pinkeye include: 

  • Warm, moist compresses to the eye(s)
  • Lubricating eye drops, such as artificial tears
  • For allergy-like symptoms, antihistamines such as loratadine may provide relief

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis can last up to two weeks, but the worst typically are earlier in the course of the illness. Regardless of the cause of your pinkeye, remember to discard any contaminated eye make-up. 

It's safe to return to work or school if the drainage is controllable, and you follow good hand hygiene. If your child is in daycare, you may want to check with them about their policy. In-home daycare providers may continue to exclude children with pinkeye. 

Dr. Marcie Billings shares her tips for parents in this video. 

Kristine Penza, APRN, CNP, is a family nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Express Care.