Symptoms of pink eye can differ depending on if it’s caused by allergies or a viral or bacterial infection. However, overlapping symptoms include itching, red and watery eyes.
If you have allergic pink eye, both eyes are normally affected and are usually bloodshot. You may also experience intense itching in or around the eyes. Other symptoms can include a runny nose. Generally, this means you’re experiencing an allergic reaction rather than a bacterial or viral infection. Usually, initial symptoms, such as watery discharge and redness of the eye appear within 20–30 minutes of encountering the allergen.
Because there are different types of allergic pink eye, some people can experience additional symptoms, including:
- Eye pain (burning eyes or a stinging sensation)
- Blurred vision
- Swollen eyelids
- A gritty feeling in the eye (foreign body sensation)
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Corneal ulcers
- Lumps and swelling on the inner eyelids
With bacterial conjunctivitis you may notice a more yellowish-white discharge and that your eyelids are very sticky. Sometimes your eyelids may even stick together. This is likely to happen in the morning when you first wake up. Viral conjunctivitis shares similar symptoms but typically has watery discharge instead. Some viruses that cause pink eye are spread by mosquito and tick bites, so it’s important to take care when travelling to tropical or subtropical regions.
If you’re also experiencing a headache or feel nauseous you should see a doctor so they can rule out more serious conditions.