How Long Does Conjunctivitis Last?

Conjunctivitis, more commonly called pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the transparent membrane that covers a portion of the eyelid’s front surface and the white part of the eyeball. The whites of the eyes appear pink or reddish when the conjunctiva’s small blood vessels become inflamed. Conjunctivitis is commonly caused by a viral infection, bacterial infection, or a hypersensitive immune reaction. It’s a contagious condition that affects roughly 6 million Americans each year. Visit AFC Urgent Care Vernon today if you think you may have pink eye

Viral vs. Bacterial Pink Eye

Viral Conjunctivitis

A contagious virus is usually the source of viral conjunctivitis. Someone with an upper respiratory tract infection can cause exposure through coughing or sneezing. It’s also possible for the condition to develop as the virus travels along the body’s mucous membranes linked to the conjunctiva. An intense nose blow could expel droplets and send a virus traveling from your respiratory system to your eyes. Conjunctivitis tends to be mild in most patients. Without treatment, it typically takes between 7 and 14 days for the infection to pass. There are usually no long-term effects. However, viral conjunctivitis is known to last 2 to 3 weeks or more before a full recovery.


Viral conjunctivitis cannot be treated with eye drops or any kind of ointment. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections. The virus will eventually run its course as viruses do. It may be possible to alleviate some symptoms of conjunctivitis with cool compresses and artificial tear solutions. In the instance of severe cases of conjunctivitis, a physician may prescribe a patient topical steroid drops to remedy the discomfort caused by inflammation. The drops will have no impact on the infection itself since they can’t eliminate the virus.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis is an infection that is commonly caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria found on your skin or in your respiratory system. Other possible sources of the infection include person-to-person contact, poor hand hygiene, touching the face with dirty hands, or using eye makeup or facial lotions contaminated with the bacteria. Bacteria can also get on shared makeup or poorly-cleaned contact lenses that can transfer to the eyes during use. Absent treatment, bacterial conjunctivitis will show signs of improvement in 2 to 5 days and 14 days for a full recovery. 


Without antibiotic treatment, mild cases of bacterial conjunctivitis may pass on their own without any complications. Antibiotics in the form of eye drops or ointment are typically prescribed for bacterial conjunctivitis, which can reduce the length of the infection and minimize the risk of developing complications and spread the infection.


Both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, and you should do what’s necessary to prevent an infection. There are several preventative measures that you can apply to minimize your risk of getting conjunctivitis.

  • Wash dirty hands with soap and water before touching your face, particularly your eye area
  • Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes
  • Regularly clean your makeup brushes
  • Dispose of expired eye and face makeup
  • Clean extended wear lenses according to instructions, as well as the case
  • Avoid contact with anyone that has conjunctivitis
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as contact lenses, eyeglasses, eye drops, eye makeup, face makeup, makeup brushes, towels, and pillows

If you are showing signs of conjunctivitis, get a clinical diagnosis to confirm the infection. You should seek early treatment to limit the spread of the infection and also protect your eyes. Visit AFC Vernon immediately if you have any symptoms or signs that concern you, such as pain in the eye, blurred vision, or discharge coming from the eye(s).