Did you know that most cases that are diagnosed as "pink eye" are not pink eye at all?

Pink eye has become a generic term used in urgent cares, schools, minute clinics, and even the trusted Family Doctor's office to diagnose someone's conjunctivitis when they are not really sure what it is.

True pink eye, as defined by the eyecare professionals, is called epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, or EKC.

EKC is a highly contagious form of conjunctivitis caused by certain viruses called adenovirus.  It is a more severe form of conjunctivitis that typically lasts 7-21 days.  Patient's with this pink eye can have very red, watery, and irritated eyes.  Many times the vision is affected due to the amount of inflammation in the eyes.

Because pink eye is due to an adenovirus, like the common cold, it typically must just run it's course before going away.


Although there is no treatment that will cure pink eye, your Eye Columbus Optometrist can prescribe eye drops that will reduce the signs and symptoms of the virus to make it more manageable. 

Antibiotic eye drops are commonly prescribed by urgent cares and minute clinics for the treatment of pink eye.  Unfortunately, because pink eye is caused from a virus and not bacteria, these antibiotics have little to no affect.

In many cases of pink eye the cornea may become involved with subepithelial infiltrates, little groups of white blood cells called in to stop the infection.  These infiltrates need to be treated with proper eye drops before any scarring takes place.  Your Optometrist may prescribe a steroid eye drop which will help remove these infiltrates.  These steroid eye drops will reduce the redness and swelling as well as improve comfort for the patient until the pink eye resolves.


True pink eye (EKC) is very contagious.  Because pink eye is caused by an adenovirus, it can spread just as easily as the common cold.

Patients that develop or think they may be developing pink eye should take extra caution in washing their hands routinely to minimize the risk of spreading it to someone else.  These people should also be sure to wash all towels, pillow cases, and bed sheets and blankets.

Other articles in the house that are often overlooked are throw pillows on couches, hand towels, door handles, and sink handles.  All of these should be disinfected.

Most patients are typically contagious for 14 days.


True pink eye (EKC) follows a pretty common rule that we call the Rule of 8.  Although this rule does not exactly define each patient's experience with pink eye, it does help us understand the virus lifespan and what we can expect.

What Is The Rule Of 8

  • Pink eye is commonly caused by adenovirus 8
  • We will not have any signs and symptoms of pink eye until 8 days after we have caught pink eye or exposed to the virus.
  • One is typically affected first. The other eye usually catches pink eye 8 days later.
  • Pink eye will start to improve 8 days after onset.  The other eye will usually improve 8 days after that.

If for any reason you think you may have pink eye, please visit your Optometrist as soon as possible.  Only your eye doctor has the tools need in their office to tell the difference between pink eye and other common eye infections.

by Dr. Craig Miller | Eye Columbus