CareNow® - June 20, 2022

Will urgent care treat pinkeye?

The dreaded pinkeye is one of the most contagious infections around, especially when it comes to children. The infection, which is officially called conjunctivitis, can be caused by either a bacterial or viral infection — or in some cases an allergic reaction.

If you or your child develop pinkeye, it’s crucial that it be treated quickly to avoid spreading the infection. Because it is so contagious, you will need to be careful when treating the infection on others as well to avoid getting it yourself.

So what is the right way to get rid of pinkeye? Here’s everything you need to know about pinkeye, including where to seek medical treatment.

What are the symptoms of pinkeye?

Symptoms of pinkeye depend on the cause of the infection, but common symptoms include:

  • Itchy or burning eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Discharge from the eye (green or white)
  • Redness either in the white or inner eyelid of the eye
  • Swollen conjunctiva
  • Yellow discharge that crusts over the lashes

What causes pinkeye?

The first question you may be wondering is what causes pinkeye? The truth is that the infection can be caused by a number of things, including bacterial or viral infection, allergies, a blocked tear duct, or even a foreign chemical in the eye.

It’s also possible for pinkeye to be caused by a sexually transmitted disease. For instance, gonorrhea and chlamydia are both known to cause conjunctivitis. In severe cases, these forms of conjunctivitis can lead to vision loss when left untreated.

Should I go to urgent care for pinkeye?

If you’re worried you have pinkeye, it’s a good idea to get a proper medical diagnosis so you can start treating it as soon as possible. Pinkeye can easily be confused with other eye conditions like seasonal allergies, a sty, or other causes of inflammation that aren’t contagious.

To determine whether or not you have pinkeye, your provider will want to know more about your symptoms. He or she will also do a full eye exam, and may even use a cotton swab to gather and test fluid from your eyelid. Testing this fluid will reveal if there are bacteria or viruses, including those that can cause an STD, that are causing the infection.

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Does urgent care treat pinkeye?

If you’re diagnosed with pinkeye, your provider will come up with a treatment plan that depends on the cause. For instance, if it’s determined that your pinkeye is viral, the best course of action is typically to let the infection run its course as antibiotics can’t do anything. In most cases, this takes four to seven days.

For bacterial cases of pinkeye, antibiotics are often prescribed. Typically, the antibiotic is either in the form of an eye drop or an ointment that should be applied to the inside of your eyelid as much as four times daily.

In some instances, pinkeye is simply caused by an irritant. If this happens to you, your provider will help you flush the substance from your eye. You should notice significant improvement within four hours.

How to alleviate symptoms of pinkeye

Pinkeye can interfere with your daily life, but alleviating your symptoms as much as possible can help you at least function as needed.

A cool compress can help soothe the irritation. If you don’t have pinkeye in both eyes, it’s important that you avoid touching both eyes with the same cloth as this can spread the infection from one eye to the other.

If you wear contact lenses, try taking them out for a few days until your symptoms subside. If you wear disposable contacts, talk to your provider about whether you should throw them away or not.

Many people find relief with over-the-counter eye drops. If your pinkeye is caused by allergies, you may be able to find eye drops with antihistamines or other medications.

How to avoid spreading pinkeye

Once you’ve developed pinkeye, it’s easy to spread to someone else. On the other hand, if you’re around someone who has pinkeye, you’re at a high risk of getting the condition as well.

By practicing good hygiene, however, you can help control the spread of pinkeye. Here are a few practices to follow to prevent pinkeye:

  • Avoid touching your hands to your eyes
  • Keep your hands clean by washing regularly
  • Don’t share washcloths or towels with others
  • Wash and change your pillowcases regularly
  • Never share eye makeup or cosmetics

When to see a provider for pinkeye

It’s recommended that you see a provider any time you believe you have pinkeye so you can determine the cause and, therefore, the right treatment.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with pinkeye or not, it’s important that you seek medical attention no matter what if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive yellow or green discharge from your eye (this may result in your eyelids sticking together in the morning)
  • Severe pain when you look into a bright light
  • Change in or loss of vision as a result of pinkeye
  • High fever, chills, or face pain

Pinkeye is also extremely dangerous for newborns as it can impact their vision for the rest of their lives. If your newborn develops the infection, call a pediatrician immediately.

In most cases, pinkeye will improve within two weeks; however, if your symptoms persist, you need to see a provider as soon as possible.

If you believe you have pinkeye, consider visiting your local CareNow® for a proper diagnosis. All of our more than 175 facilities are open after hours and on the weekend so you can get care when you need it most.

You can also rest assured you’re getting the best care as we’ve earned the distinction of Accredited Urgent Care Center from our industry’s association, Urgent Care Association (UCA).

Prior to your visit, be sure to take advantage of our Web Check-In® feature so you can wait from the convenience of your home, office, etc., instead of the waiting room.

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