What Is Commonly Misdiagnosed As Pink Eye?

Looking for a breakdown of what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye? Several conditions are commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye.

This is because the signs of pink eye mimic those of other medical diagnoses. 

Pink eye is inflammation of the transparent layer covering your eyelid or eyeball. Your eyes may get reddish or pink, watery, or itch excessively.

A white, yellow, or green discharge from the eyes is also a common symptom of pink eye. Sometimes, you may have another condition like blepharitis or allergies, presenting symptoms similar to pink eye.

This post explores the conditions commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye. Let’s look at the meaning and symptoms of pink eye first.

What Is Pink Eye?

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is the infection of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane covering both your eyelid and eyeball.

The condition occurs when tiny blood vessels within the conjunctiva get irritated and inflamed. This makes them more noticeable, giving your eyes a reddish or pink tint. 

Various factors can lead to pink eye, such as viral infections, bacterial infections, and allergies. Or, in the case of babies, an unopened tear duct. Typical pink eye symptoms include:

  • Excessive tearing 
  • Reddish or pink eyes
  • Itchy or burning sensations in the eyes
  • Discharge in white, yellow, or green hues coming from the eyes
  • Crusty build-up along your eyelids and eyelashes, potentially causing difficulty opening your eyes upon waking

Pink eye may also trigger puffy eyelids or a sensation of having something lodged in your eye.

Alternatively, a small protrusion may appear in front of your ear. Sometimes, you might experience increased sensitivity to bright lights or diminished visual clarity.

What Is Commonly Misdiagnosed As Pink Eye?


Allergic conjunctivitis, an irritation of the tissue lining your inner eyelids and the whites of your eyeballs, can mimic pink eye. Allergens and irritants like pollen, dust, and mold trigger this condition.

Typical symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include severe eye itching and an irresistible urge to rub your eyes.

You may also experience redness of the eyes, watery or white stringy phlegm discharge, and puffy eyelids.

As a result, allergic conjunctivitis is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye. However, nasal symptoms like a runny or itchy nose or sneezing are common.

Dry Eye Syndrome

When your tears fail to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes, it’s called dry eye syndrome.

This can happen if your eyes don’t make enough tears. Or when your eyes produce tears that aren’t of high quality.

Several symptoms of dry eye syndrome resemble pink eye. These include:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Stinging sensations
  • Blurry vision
  • Redness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes

Therefore, the condition is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye.


A stye can appear as a red, painful bump near the edge of your eyelid and might look like a boil or pimple.

These often pus-filled lumps can form on the outside or inside part of your eyelid. 

Most styes begin to vanish on their own within just a couple of days. However, they are commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye.


This eyelid irritation typically develops on both eyes along the rims. It’s often triggered by clogged oil glands near the lashes’ base. This leads to irritation and redness. Other common symptoms include:

  • Swollen or tender eyelids
  • Watery, stringy, or sticky discharge
  • Stinging or burning of the eyes
  • A gritty or sandy bodily sensation

Given these symptoms of blepharitis, it’s commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye.


Conditions like allergic conjunctivitis, styes, and blepharitis are commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye.

This is because it presents with similar symptoms as those conditions. Those include burning or itchy eyes, swollen eyelids, and reddishness or pinkness of the eyes.

It’s always important to see a healthcare professional when you aren’t sure which eye condition you have. They’ll help you definitively determine whether you have pink eye.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.) Can Viral Infections Cause Pink Eye?

Pink eye is often triggered by viral infections. However, bacterial infections, allergies, or a blocked tear duct in babies can cause it too.

Knowing the cause of pink eye is essential for treatment. Cold or upper respiratory symptoms can suggest viral conjunctivitis.

2.) Can Pink Eye be Caused by a Trauma?

Typically, pink eye is caused by viral or bacterial infections, allergies, or blocked tear ducts in babies.

Chemicals, contact lenses, and foreign objects in the eye are other causes. However, trauma is not a common cause of pink eye. 

3.)Can Eye Strain Mimic Pink Eye?

Eye strain happens when eyes get tired from intense use, like driving or staring at screens. Indicators include sore eyes, blurred vision, and headaches.

While some symptoms are similar to pink eye, they are separate conditions. Pink eye involves conjunctiva inflammation, making eyes appear reddish or pink.

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