What is Viral Conjunctivitis?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2020
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Viral conjunctivitis is a particularly painful and troublesome infection of the eye caused by a variety of viruses. This condition, also known as pink eye, is not usually serious, and will often run its course over a 10- to 14-day period. Because it is self-limiting, viral conjunctivitis treatment is based upon treating the symptoms and alleviating any discomfort associated with them rather than treating the problem itself. Treatment of this ailment may also include a precautionary course of antibiotics to stop secondary bacterial infections from occurring.

Symptoms include swelling of the conjunctiva, the part of the eye that is clear and covers the sclera, or white part of the eye. Redness, itchiness, painful sores, fever, sore throat and congestion are also common among most forms of the infection. It is transmitted via infected upper respiratory secretions, contact with inanimate objects that have in turn come into contact with infectious particles or swimming in contaminated water. While other methods of transmission can occur, such as an infected person touching himself and then another, this is less common.


Viral conjunctivitis is a common disease, not always reaching full severity. Depending upon the specific virus that causes it, symptoms can be very mild. Viral conjunctivitis is more common where people are living in a close community setting such as a military barracks, school, dormitory and family dwelling. Utilizing the principles of proper hygiene, as well as making sure that personal items such as towels, washcloths and eye makeup remain unique to each person and are not shared, can go a long way toward preventing the spread of viral conjunctivitis. Seeking proper medical treatment upon suspicion of the disease is also imperative.

While many people do not suffer long-term effects from this illness, it is advised that patients see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. In rare cases, viral conjunctivitis can reoccur, causing the condition to be deemed chronic eye viral conjunctivitis. While the period of infection can be irritating, painful and lengthy, serious harm to vision rarely occurs. When it does occur, it is often caused by secondary bacterial infections, which can be prevented by using a course of antibiotics prescribed by a licensed medical care provider.


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