Blog Hero

What Is Commonly Misdiagnosed As Pink Eye?

Book Appointment
A child with a swollen pink eye, possibly indicating an eye infection or pollen allergy

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a common infection that affects the thin, clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and lining the inside of the eyelid. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergies, or irritants.

Though pink eye is typically easy to diagnose and treat, there are some other conditions that may present with similar symptoms and can be easily misdiagnosed as pink eye including:

  • Dry Eye Syndrome
  • Contact Lens Overuse or Irritation
  • Corneal Abrasion
  • Blepharitis
  • Keratitis
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or the quality of tears is poor, leading to dryness, irritation, and inflammation in the eyes. It can be caused by various factors, including aging, hormonal changes, certain medications, and medical conditions like arthritis or Sjogren’s syndrome.

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome may include redness, burning sensation, and blurred vision–all of which are also common symptoms of pink eye. However, dry eye syndrome does not cause discharge from the eyes like pink eye does.

Contact Lens Overuse or Irritation

Wearing contact lenses for an extended period of time or not properly cleaning and storing them can cause irritation in the eyes. This can lead to redness, discomfort, and even infection in some cases.

These symptoms may be mistaken for pink eye, especially if there is discharge present. However, if you wear contact lenses and experience these symptoms, it is important to remove your contact lenses immediately and consult an eye doctor for proper treatment.

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the clear, protective layer of the eye called the cornea. It can be caused by foreign objects, such as dirt or sand, getting into the eye or from rubbing the eyes too hard.

Symptoms may include redness, pain, and sensitivity to light – all of which can also be present in pink eye. However, a corneal abrasion will usually heal on its own within a few days with proper care and does not typically have discharge like pink eye.


Blepharitis is a condition where the eyelids become inflamed, usually due to an excess of bacteria or oil in the eye area. This can lead to redness, irritation, and crusting along the eyelashes.

While these symptoms may overlap with pink eye, blepharitis is usually a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment to manage. It is important to consult an eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea, often caused by infection from bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Symptoms can include redness, pain, and discharge.

While these symptoms may be similar to pink eye, keratitis can have more severe consequences if left untreated. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have keratitis.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction that affects the conjunctiva, causing redness, swelling, and itching of the eyes. It can be caused by seasonal or environmental allergies, such as pollen, dust, or pet dander.

Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis may mimic those of pink eye, including redness and itching of the eyes. However, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious like pink eye and can usually be managed with antihistamines or topical steroid drops.

How to Know If It’s Pink Eye or Something Else

Close-up of a severely bloodshot eye, often mistaken for pink eye.

As you can see, many conditions can have similar symptoms to pink eye. So how do you know if it’s actually pink eye or something else?

The best way to determine the cause of your eye irritation is to consult an eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. They will be able to analyze your symptoms and perform any necessary tests to identify the underlying issue.

In the meantime, it’s important to practice good hygiene and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. If you wear contact lenses, make sure to properly clean and disinfect them before use. And if your symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The Importance of Consulting With an Optometrist for Pink Eye

While Pink Eye can often be treated at home with over-the-counter remedies, it is still important to consult an optometrist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

An optometrist will be able to accurately diagnose the cause of your pink eye and provide the appropriate treatment. They may also be able to identify any underlying conditions that could be causing recurrent or chronic pink eye.

Unlike a family doctor, an optometrist has specialized training and experience in dealing with eye-related issues. They will be able to provide comprehensive care for your pink eye, as well as any other vision or eye health concerns you may have.

If left untreated or misdiagnosed, pink eye can lead to more serious complications. For example, viral pink eye caused by the herpes simplex virus can lead to permanent vision loss if not properly treated.

Some symptoms of pink eye may also be signs of a more serious underlying condition, such as uveitis or glaucoma. Only an optometrist will be able to accurately differentiate between these conditions and provide the appropriate treatment.

Expert Treatment for Pink Eye & More at Tutt Street Optometry Clinic

Pink eye, while common and usually not serious, should still be taken seriously and treated properly. Consulting with an optometrist is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of pink eye. It also helps address any underlying conditions before they become more serious.

At Tutt Street Optometry Clinic,  our team of experienced and highly trained optometrists can provide you with the best care for your pink eye and other eye health concerns. Don’t hesitate to book an appointment if you are experiencing symptoms of pink eye or have any other concerns about your vision and eye health.

Written by Dr. Stacey Grimes

instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax