The reasons why you should not wear your contacts with pink eye include eye irritation, inflammation, and vision problems.
You should avoid touching your eyes in general when it comes to any viral or bacterial eye infection. Touching or further irritating the area will most likely result in spreading the infection.
When a person has pink eye (whatever the underlying cause may be), the eye becomes inflamed. Putting in and wearing contact lenses will only aggravate the situation and delay the healing process.
Pink Eye Causes
When the eye becomes infected, it gets inflamed as the blood vessels enlarge. This inflammation is the underlying cause of the pink or reddish color of the eye when a person has pink eye.
Pink eye can be caused by bacterial infection, viral infection, or an allergic reaction.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is generally caused by a bacterial infection of some sort. Bacterial infections are highly contagious and can also lead to eye damage if the infection in question is aggravated or not treated properly.
Viral conjunctivitis is caused by viruses, such as the common cold. Viral conjunctivitis is also highly contagious, but this condition will generally clear up without the need for medical intervention over the course of a few days to a week or so.
Allergic conjunctivitis is brought on by dust, pollen, pet dander, and other irritants. Allergic conjunctivitis generally affects people who have allergies that occur either on a seasonal or situational basis.
Why You Shouldn’t Wear Contacts With Pink Eye
There are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t wear your contact lenses when you have pink eye, such as these:
Whatever caused your pink eye (whether a virus, bacterium, or allergen) has likely contaminated your contact lenses as well.
It’s important to get rid of monthly or weekly lenses if you experience pink eye to avoid further infection. Contacts issued on a longer replacement schedule should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Wearing contaminated lenses can prolong your pink eye by causing reinfection.
Pink eye happens when your eye gets infected and inflamed. Wearing contacts can end up further irritating an eye that is already aggravated. This impedes the eye’s ability to clear pink eye, prolonging the overall discomfort and swelling.
Instead of wearing contacts when you have pink eye, wear glasses until the infection has cleared, and all inflammation and irritation have subsided.
What About When Pink Eye Is Clearing?
While most doctors recommend that you abstain from contact lenses the entire time you have pink eye, you can potentially wear contacts for brief periods if the case is very mild or almost gone. This may be appropriate if there is a reason you need to wear contacts, such as participating in sports.
Still, it’s best to not wear contacts until the pink eye is completely gone if possible.
Getting Help for Pink Eye
Many cases of pink eye will usually heal on their own, but if you experience severe symptoms, it is always best to see an experienced eye care professional for help. For example, bacterial pink eye may require antibiotic eye drops to fully clear.
Treatment options for pink eye include topical antibiotics, eye compresses, and eye drops. There are also things you can do to avoid spreading the infection.
Using either a warm or cold compress multiple times per day will help to soothe the eyes and eyelids. Make sure to use clean supplies during each session.
Don’t use the same compress on both eyes. Use a fresh one for each.
Pink eye (if allergy related) may respond positively to anti-allergy drops as well as additional allergy medication. Make sure to consult with your eye doctor before using these drops.
You can also treat and soothe dryness by using over-the-counter artificial tears, which can be found at most grocery stores and pharmacies.
Antibiotic eye drops can be acquired through prescription for cases of bacterial pink eye. These drops have been shown to treat and alleviate pink eye in as few as two or three days.
However, antibiotic drops or ointments will not help treat any sort of viral pink eye. Viral pink eye will generally clear up on its own in around seven to ten days.
When Is It Safe to Wear Contacts After Pink Eye?
It may be tempting to wear your contacts right after you think your pink eye has subsided. As a general rule, it’s good to wait two or three days after pink eye symptoms are no longer present before wearing your contact lenses.
When you wear your contact lenses again, it’s important to sterilize your contact lenses before putting them in your eyes again. If you wear disposable lenses, toss the old pair and use a brand-new pair.
When to See a Doctor
If your pink eye doesn’t clear within about a week, see an eye doctor to confirm something more serious isn’t going on. You should see an eye doctor sooner if your symptoms seem severe.
Call your doctor if you experience any of these:
- Compromised or blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
- Moderate to severe eye pain
- Significant discharge from the eye
In general, when it comes to eye health, it’s always better to be safe. If you have symptoms of pink eye, see a doctor to confirm your diagnosis and get advice on how to speed the healing process.
Bacterial Conjunctivitis. (January 2023). StatPearls.
Effect of Topical Antibiotics on Duration of Acute Infective Conjunctivitis in Children. (October 2022). JAMA Network.
Viral Conjunctivitis. (October 2022). StatPearls.
Allergic Conjunctivitis. (2017). Community Eye Health Journal.
Can I Wear Contact Lenses While I Have Pink Eye? (March 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Last Updated May 24, 2023
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