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Is Pink Eye Itchy or Painful?

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Pink eye, also known as Conjunctivitis, is a common eye condition affecting people of all ages. 

Various factors, including viruses, bacteria, allergens, and irritants, can cause it.

One of the most frequent concerns about the pink eye condition is whether it is itchy or painful.

This article will answer the question, “Is pink eye itchy or painful?” and what does pink eye pain feel like?

Is Pink Eye Itchy or Painful?

Viral pink eye causes the inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and eyeball.

It is a common viral eye infection that is typically diagnosed as eye irritation and viral infections and could lead to eye disorders.

The pain level experienced with pink eye can vary depending on its underlying cause and severity.

To know what causes pink eye, Read The Science Behind Pink Eye Cause: Viruses, Allergies, and More.

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  • Types of Pink Eye and Their Pain Sensations

    Pink eye can be categorized into three main types based on their cause: viral, bacterial, and allergic Conjunctivitis.

    Each type presents with its own symptoms, including different pain levels.

    Here, we will discuss the different types of pink eye and the varying degrees of discomfort or pain they can cause.

    Allergic Conjunctivitis: itchy but not painful

    Unlike viral and bacterial forms, allergic Conjunctivitis is not caused by an infection.

    Instead, it is triggered by exposure to allergens such as pollen, dust, or pet dander. The hallmark symptom of allergic Conjunctivitis is intense itching.

    While the itching can be severe and persistent, it is not usually associated with pain.

    People with allergic pink eye may also experience redness, tearing, and puffiness around the eyes.

    The itching can be quite bothersome, but it is not the same as the discomfort or pain in viral or bacterial Conjunctivitis.

    Viral Conjunctivitis: mild discomfort

    Viral Conjunctivitis, often caused by the same viruses responsible for the common cold, is typically associated with mild discomfort rather than intense pain.

    Patients with viral pink eye may describe their eyes as slightly irritated. Itchiness is a common complaint, but severe pain is rare.

    This type of pink eye often affects both eyes simultaneously and is highly contagious. Symptoms of viral pink eye may include redness, watery eye discharge, light sensitivity, and mild discomfort.

    Do you want to learn about viral pink eye treatment, read Viral Pink Eye Treatment: How to Get Rid of Viral Pink Eye.

    Bacterial Conjunctivitis: moderate pain

    Bacterial Conjunctivitis, as the name suggests, is caused by bacterial infections. Usually, it causes pain ranging from mild to moderate, depending on the severity of the infection.

    Bacterial pink eye typically affects one eye initially but can spread to others without proper precautions.

    Those with bacterial pink eye experience a sensation of burning or grittiness, similar to what is felt with viral Conjunctivitis.

    To learn more about bacterial pink eye symptoms, Read Unveiling Bacterial Pink Eye Symptoms.

    During an active pink eye infection, avoiding eye makeup is advisable. It can introduce irritants and bacteria to the eye area, exacerbating discomfort.

    What Does Pink Eye Pain Feel Like?

    IrritationSource: Alona_Sinhea
    A man suffering from irritation in eyes

    The pain experienced in the pink eye is generally not severe, but it can still be uncomfortable.

    Pink eye is also highly contagious and often accompanied by yellowish discharge or greenish eye discharge.

    Wondering how long pink eye stays contagious? Read How Long is Pink Eye Contagious: Contagious Period Explained.

    Patients often describe the sensation as follows:

    Grittiness or irritation

    Many individuals with pink eye report feeling as though there is something gritty or foreign in their eyes.

    According to studies, this sensation is often accompanied by a mild burning feeling, making the eye sore.


    Itchiness is a common symptom of pink eye, especially in viral and allergic Conjunctivitis cases.

    The urge to scratch the affected eye can be intense, but resisting this temptation is important, as it can worsen the condition or spread the infection.

    Burning sensation

    A study mentions some people with pink eye describe a burning or stinging sensation, particularly in cases of bacterial Conjunctivitis.

    This discomfort is usually more pronounced than the irritation or itchiness seen in other forms of pink eye.

    Foreign body sensation

    Researchers suggest pink eye can make the eye feel like a foreign object is trapped in it. This sensation can be persistent and contribute to the overall discomfort associated with the condition.

    If you are experiencing teary eyes, redness, or yellow discharge from the eyes, it may be a symptom of pink eye. Consult your doctor before taking any medicine for the pink eye.

    Effective Pink Eye Treatment

    BimatoprostSource: Devonyu
    Antihistamine eye drops

    Treatment of pink eye depends on the cause of it, whether is it a bacteria, a virus, an allergen, or something else. 

    Viral Conjunctivitis does not usually require treatment unless it is caused by Herpes Simplex Virus, Varicella Zoster Virus, or a sexually transmitted infection.

    Allergic Conjunctivitis is usually treated with prescription eye drops like Antihistamine eye drops or decongestant eye drops that have anti-inflammatory properties.

    Whereas doctors generally prescribe Antibiotics to treat bacterial Conjunctivitis


    ‘Is pink eye itchy or painful?’ is the most common question for people experiencing pink eye.

    Pink eye is a common eye condition that can cause discomfort, including sensations of irritation, grittiness, itching, and mild to moderate pain.

    The type and severity of pain experienced can vary depending on the underlying cause of the pink eye.

    While viral and allergic Conjunctivitis is often associated with itching and mild discomfort, bacterial Conjunctivitis can cause more pronounced pain and burning.

    If you or someone you know develops symptoms of pink eye, it’s important to practice good hygiene, avoid touching or rubbing the eyes, and seek medical advice.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What to do when your pink eye is itchy?

    To alleviate itchiness in pink eye, avoid rubbing the eye and consider using over-the-counter artificial tears or prescribed eye drops. If the discomfort persists, consult a doctor for appropriate treatment.

    How long does pink eye itch last?

    The duration of itchiness in the pink eye can vary, typically lasting several days to a week. It may persist longer in cases of allergic Conjunctivitis, viral Conjunctivitis may last about one to two weeks, and bacterial Conjunctivitis symptoms may start improving in one to two days. 

    Why is one of my eyes pink and itchy?

    Pink and itchy eyes are the symptoms that indicate an individual is experiencing pink eye. It can result from various causes, including viral, bacterial, or allergic Conjunctivitis. A doctor can determine the specific cause and recommend treatment based on your condition.

    Does pink eye itch more at night?

    Yes, pink eye symptoms, including itching, can worsen at night due to reduced blinking and increased eye dryness during sleep. Using lubricating eye drops before bedtime may help.

    Does pink eye cause discomfort?

    Yes, the pink eye does cause discomfort or pain in the eye, which varies depending on its type. Viral Conjunctivitis is typically associated with mild discomfort; bacterial Conjunctivitis may cause moderate pain, while allergic Conjunctivitis is more itchy than painful.

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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