Should I Go to Urgent Care for Pink Eye?

May 30, 2023 | Health & Wellness, Illness & Infections

You wake up with one eye wide open and the other matted in a crusty gunk. After you will your eyelid open, your reflection in the bathroom mirror causes you to gasp. The white of your eye is now a reddish hue, your eyelid is swollen, and a runny discharge makes you grab frantically for a tissue. And it itches and burns. Oh, how it itches and burns.

Congratulations. Sounds like you have pink eye.

Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is a common eye infection affecting the outer layer of the eye. The infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergens, and even irritants resulting in several symptoms including redness, itching, swelling, discharge, and blurred vision.

While more prevalent in children than adults, anyone can come down with pink eye. The infection is typically spread from one person to another via:

  • Close personal contact (shaking hands, etc.)
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eye before washing hands.

And while not all cases of pink eye require urgent care, the infection itself can be quite uncomfortable and even lead to complications if left untreated.

Should you go to urgent care for pink eye?

Here are four reasons to consider making the trip.

  • Worsening symptoms: The good news is that pink eye often presents with mild symptoms that can frequently be managed at home, as long as they do not worsen. Proper care includes good hygiene and frequent hand washing, keeping your hands and fingers away from your eyes, and cleaning any gunky discharge with warm water and a clean towel. Over-the-counter eye drops or ointments are also available to ease your symptoms. Talk about your options with your pharmacist. However, if your symptoms are severe or if accompanied by fever, sensitivity to light, or blurry vision, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Fast relief: Urgent care centers are equipped to diagnose and treat pink eye effectively. Doctors have seen plenty of pink eye patients before, and are fully equipped with the experience, expertise, and equipment needed to identify the cause of your infection and provide an appropriate course of treatment. After performing a thorough eye exam and possibly taking a sample of the discharge for testing, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics, antiviral medication, or possibly eye drops, depending on the infection’s underlying cause. They can also provide you with advice on how to manage the infection at home and prevent it from spreading to others.
  • Risk of infecting others: Viral and bacterial pink eye are highly contagious and can spread quickly from person to person. If you have an eye infection, urgent care can provide a rapid diagnosis and dispense any necessary antibiotics or treatments, which can prevent you from unwittingly spreading the infection to others. This is particularly important if you have a job or occupation that involves close contact with others, such as teaching, healthcare, or food service.
  • Time and money: Pink eye can be alarming for the uninitiated. But if you opt for the Emergency Room, you may have to wait for hours before being seen. Urgent care centers, on the other hand, offer walk-in appointments that allow you to see a doctor within minutes. Moreover, urgent care centers tend to have lower co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses than the ER, and are a much more affordable option, particularly for individuals without health insurance.

If you’re experiencing pink eye symptoms, Quality First Urgent Care’s team of emergency medical specialists can diagnose your condition and recommend the best course of action moving forward. If you think you may have an infection of any kind, don’t hesitate to stop by. Or schedule an appointment online.