• South Surrey, BC
  • (604) 535-8118
  • Call us today to schedule an eye exam
Blog Hero

What Is Most Commonly Misdiagnosed as Pink Eye?

Book Appointment
A close-up of a man's eyes. The right eye showing signs of inflammation.

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a common condition that causes inflammation and redness in the eye’s outermost layer. It can be caused by various factors, including bacteria, viruses, allergies, and irritants.

While pink eye is usually diagnosed and treated correctly by eye care professionals, some conditions can mimic its symptoms and lead to a misdiagnosis, including:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Blepharitis
  • Keratitis
  • Uveitis
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Contact lens-related issues

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is a common condition that occurs when the eyes come into contact with an allergen, such as pollen or pet dander. The symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis can be similar to pink eye, including redness and itching of the eyes.

One key difference between allergic conjunctivitis and pink eye is that other allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and a runny nose, often accompany allergic conjunctivitis. It is also not contagious like pink eye.

Dry Eye Syndrome

A man in his jacket rubbing his eyes with both hands.

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes cannot produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to redness, irritation, and a feeling of something foreign in the eye.

While dry eye syndrome may share some symptoms with pink eye, it is not typically accompanied by discharge from the eye like pink eye is.  Additionally, dry eye syndrome tends to affect both eyes, while pink eye may only affect one.


Blepharitis is a common condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids. It can be caused by bacteria or a skin condition and can lead to redness, itching, and irritation of the eyes.

Some symptoms of blepharitis may overlap with pink eye, but unlike pink eye, it often causes a crusty or greasy buildup along the eyelashes. It can also be chronic and require long-term treatment.


Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea, the clear dome-shaped layer covering the front of the eye. It can be caused by an infection, injury, or underlying health condition.

Symptoms of keratitis may include redness, pain, and sensitivity to light. While it may share some symptoms with pink eye, keratitis requires prompt medical attention to prevent potential vision loss.


Uveitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the uvea, which is the middle layer of the eye. It can be caused by an infection, injury, or autoimmune disorder. Symptoms of uveitis may include redness, pain, and blurred vision. Like keratitis, it requires prompt medical attention to prevent potential complications.

Unlike pink eye, uveitis typically affects only one eye and is not contagious. It may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, nausea, or eye floaters.

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the surface of the cornea. It can be caused by something as minor as rubbing your eyes too hard or a foreign object entering the eye. Symptoms may include pain, redness, and sensitivity to light.

While a corneal abrasion can be uncomfortable, it typically heals on its own within a few days. People may mistake a corneal abrasion for pink eye due to similar symptoms, but unlike pink eye, it does not cause discharge or crustiness.

Contact Lens-Related Issues

Wearing contact lenses can increase the risk of developing certain eye conditions. This is why it is important to properly clean and care for contact lenses as directed by an optometrist. These types of issues can occur when contacts are not properly cleaned and disinfected, causing bacteria to build up on the surface of the lens.

It may be mistaken for pink eye due to similar symptoms, such as redness and irritation, but a visit to an eye doctor can help determine the root cause and provide proper treatment.

How Can You Determine if It’s Pink Eye?

To determine whether it is pink eye or another condition, watch out for symptoms that are unique to pink eye. These may include:

  • Redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid
  • Itching or burning sensation in the eye
  • Excessive tearing
  • Discharge that may be watery or thick and yellow/green in colour

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult with an optometrist for a proper diagnosis.

Prevention Tips

Maintaining good hygiene is crucial for preventing pink eye and other eye conditions. This includes:

  • Properly washing your hands before handling contact lenses or touching your eyes.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and makeup with others.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses regularly, as directed by an eye doctor.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can increase the risk of developing a corneal abrasion or introducing bacteria into the eye.
  • Visit an optometrist regularly for routine check-ups and to address any concerns or symptoms that may arise.

Maintaining Healthy Eyes

At Insight Eyecare, our eye doctors can provide comprehensive eye exams and personalized care for many eye conditions or concerns. By following these prevention tips and seeking professional help when needed, you can maintain healthy eyes and prevent the spread of infections like pink eye. Schedule an appointment with us today to take care of your eye health.

Written by Dr. Karen Sahota

Dr. Karen Sahota is originally from Maple Ridge, BC. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of British Columbia. She then went to Pacific University of College of Optometry, where she received her Doctor of Optometry degree (with distinction) in 2008. She and her husband, Dr. Avi Sahota, started Insight Eyecare – Doctors of Optometry in 2010. Dr. Sahota is a member of the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honour Society, BC Doctors of Optometry, and the Canadian Association of Optometrists. Besides giving exceptional optometric exams for general eye health and vision correction, Dr. Sahota also specializes in contact lens fittings and diagnosis of early glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal pathologies. She is very experienced in pediatrics, infant vision, and pre- and post-operative LASIK and cataract surgery through her training in the United States at the Spokane VA Eye Clinic, Eugene Oregon Eye Care Centre, and the Oak Harbor Naval Hospital. Dr. Sahota is also fluent in Punjabi. She is dedicated to educating her patients and increasing public awareness about the importance of regular eye health check-ups and providing her patients with the utmost best care possible. Currently, Dr. Sahota resides in South Surrey with her husband, Dr. Avi Sahota and her two sons, Kai and Luka. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, and reading.
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star-half star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax