Pink Eye vs Scratched Cornea: Understanding the Differences

Every blink, every gaze, every tear – our eyes tell stories that words often cannot. But, what happens when that story is interrupted by discomfort, redness, or even pain? Two common culprits often come to mind: pink eye and a scratched cornea. Although they might share a few overlapping symptoms, the causes, treatments, and implications of each are significantly different.

Now, if you’re finding yourself rubbing your eyes a bit too often, or waking up with that crusty, unpleasant sensation, you may be wondering: is it pink eye or a scratched cornea? Making an accurate self-diagnosis can be tricky, but getting it wrong can delay proper treatment and, in severe cases, lead to further complications.

At Visionary Eye Doctors, we are a leading name in ophthalmology and optometry. With a combination of advanced technology and a gentle, patient-first approach, our team has been at the forefront of corneal care, helping countless patients move past distress to relief. And today, we’re here to share some of that expertise with you. 

Pink Eye: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation or infection of the thin membrane that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. 

Pink Eye Causes

Bacterial Infection: Often caused by the same types of bacteria responsible for staph infections or strep throat, bacterial conjunctivitis can be quite contagious and usually results in a thick discharge or pus from the eye.

Viral Infection: Viral conjunctivitis, sometimes also known as viral pink eye, is frequently linked to common viral upper respiratory infections, like the flu or common cold.

Allergic Reaction: Allergic conjunctivitis happens when the eyes react to allergens in the environment, such as pollen, dust mites, or certain chemicals in makeup or contact lens solutions. This form is not contagious and often occurs seasonally.

Pink Eye Symptoms

Though it’s essential to consult an eye doctor for a definitive diagnosis, here are some tell-tale signs of pink eye:

  • Redness in one or both eyes
  • Itchy eyes, especially in allergic conjunctivitis
  • Watery eyes or a clear, thin discharge
  • A gritty feeling in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Swelling of the eyelids

In cases of bacterial pink eye, symptoms can also include:

  • Green or yellow discharge from the eye, often making the eyelids stick together upon waking up
  • A runny nose or accompanying ear infection

Pink Eye Treatment

The treatment for pink eye depends on its cause. For bacterial conjunctivitis, your healthcare provider or eye specialist may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments. Within just a few days of starting this treatment, symptoms often improve significantly.

On the other hand, viral conjunctivitis doesn’t have a direct treatment. Much like a common cold, it must run its course, which could be anywhere from several days to two weeks. However, some over-the-counter eye drops might alleviate symptoms.

For allergic conjunctivitis, one can employ artificial tears to dilute the allergen, antihistamine pills, or even specific prescription eye drops to reduce inflammation and discomfort.

No matter the type, if you suspect you have pink eye, it’s imperative to see an eye doctor to ensure you get the proper treatment and guidance. Remember: your eyes are delicate, and there’s no room for false self-diagnosis

Scratched Cornea: A Closer Look at Corneal Abrasions

The cornea is a clear, protective outer layer of the eye. It acts as a barrier against dirt, germs, and other particles that could harm the eye. A scratch or injury to this sensitive structure is known as a corneal abrasion or corneal scratch.

Scratched Cornea Causes

Several events or objects can cause corneal abrasions:

  • Foreign Object: Something as small as a speck of dust, sand, or an eyelash can scratch the cornea if it becomes trapped under the eyelid. In more severe cases, larger foreign bodies like wood shavings or metal fragments can cause significant damage.
  • Contact Lenses: Improper use of contact lenses, whether it’s wearing them for too long, not cleaning them correctly, or using damaged lenses, can cause corneal scratches.
  • Physical Trauma: Accidental poking of the eye, rubbing the eye aggressively, or animal scratches are common physical causes.
  • Chemical Irritants: Exposure to some chemicals, even certain types of saline solution or clean water in large quantities, can lead to corneal injury.

Scratched Cornea Symptoms

The symptoms of a scratched cornea can be distressing. They include:

  • Sudden onset of pain and a gritty feeling in the eye 
  • Redness and tearing (watery eye) 
  • Blurred vision or vision problems 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • The sensation of having something in the eye 

Scratched Cornea Treatment

Timely treatment of a corneal abrasion is vital for proper healing and to prevent complications such as infection. Common treatment plans include: 

  • Foreign Body Removal: If a foreign object is causing the abrasion, an eye doctor will typically use a fluorescein dye to highlight the object and then safely remove it
  • Antibiotic Drops: To prevent bacterial infection, an eye specialist might prescribe antibiotic drops.
  • Lubricating Drops: Over-the-counter artificial tears or lubricating eye drops can soothe the eye and assist in the healing process.
  • Avoid Rubbing: It’s crucial to avoid rubbing the eye as this can exacerbate the injury.
  • For larger abrasions or if there’s a concern about a corneal ulcer or deeper injury, more intensive treatment, or even a corneal transplant, might be required.

Always remember, if you suspect a scratched cornea, prompt attention from an eye care professional is paramount. At Visionary Eye Doctors, we’re equippedwith advanced technology to help diagnose and treat various eye conditions, ensuring your vision remains clear and healthy. You can even visit our state-of-the-art Corneal Care Center to meet with some of the best corneal specialists in the United States! 

Pink Eye vs. Scratched Cornea: Additional Differences

At a glance, both pink eye (conjunctivitis) and a scratched cornea (corneal abrasion) can present with redness and discomfort, but understanding the differences can be vital. Let’s break down some more distinctions:

Duration and Progression:

Pink Eye: Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis can last from one to two weeks. If caused by a bacterial infection, it might resolve within several days with proper antibiotic treatment.

Scratched Cornea: Most minor corneal abrasions heal within 48 to 72 hours. However, deeper or larger scratches might take longer.


Pink Eye: When untreated, especially bacterial conjunctivitis, can lead to more severe eye infections.

Scratched Cornea: Risks include bacterial ulcers, recurrent corneal erosions, or vision problems if not addressed.

Remember: The eye is a delicate organ, and self-diagnosis can be risky. Always consult with an eye doctor or healthcare provider like Visionary Eye Doctors for a proper diagnosis. We are here to provide expert care, ensuring you get the right diagnosis and treatment for your condition.

Preventive Measures

Protecting your eyes from injury and illness is paramount. Here’s a roadmap to ensure optimal eye health:

Prevention for Pink Eye:

  • Hygiene: Regularly wash your hands with soap and clean water. Avoid touching your eyes unless your hands are clean.
  • Avoid Contact: If you or someone you know has pink eye, limit close contact to prevent its spread. This includes abstaining from sharing personal items like towels or makeup.
  • Allergy Management: If you suffer from allergic conjunctivitis, understanding your triggers and managing allergens can be a game-changer. This might include using allergen-reducing pillowcases or staying indoors during high pollen counts.

Prevention for Scratched Cornea:

  • Protective Gear: If engaging in activities that pose a risk of foreign objects coming into contact with the eye, such as woodworking or certain sports, always wear protective eyewear.
  • Contact Lens Care: For contact lens wearers, ensure you follow the recommended cleaning routine. Always wash your hands before handling your lenses.
  • Artificial Tears: Use lubricating eye drops or artificial tears to combat dry eye, which can increase the risk of abrasions.
  • Consultation and Regular Check-ups: Routine visits to your eye specialist can preempt many eye-related issues. They can provide personalized advice based on your health profile and ensure that potential problems are detected early.

Closing Thoughts

While conditions like pink eye and scratched cornea are common, understanding the distinctions and seeking timely care can make all the difference. At Visionary Eye Doctors, we’re committed to ensuring that your sight remains clear and healthy. Our advanced technology and compassionate care form a holistic approach to eye health, from preventive measures to treating the most intricate of corneal issues.Should you ever find yourself faced with eye discomfort or other vision problems, remember to prioritize your health and consult a trusted healthcare provider. Your eyes deserve nothing but the best! For more information, contact our office today!

Astigmatism vs Myopia

Astigmatism and myopia are two of the most common vision problems. There are similarities and differences between these two conditions, but they can also occur simultaneously. Known as refractive errors, both eye problems impact how your eyes focus light. It’s essential to know the difference between the two so that you fully understand your eye care needs.

While we can correct astigmatism and myopia with contact lenses and eyeglasses, they require different types of corrections. Astigmatism requires vision correction with cylindrical power. Laser correction surgery can typically assist with both vision problems, depending on the severity of your condition. When you understand the difference between astigmatism and myopia, you can take an active part in your eye health.

If you notice symptoms that include eye strain, headaches, and blurry distance vision, see one of our experienced eye doctors for an accurate diagnosis and treatment options. At Visionary Eye Doctors, your eye health and overall well-being are the main focus of our practice. Let us help you maintain clear vision for a lifetime.

Understanding Astigmatism

Astigmatism occurs when your cornea, which is the front surface of your eye, has an irregular shape. An irregularly shaped lens can also cause astigmatism. If you have astigmatism, your eye bends light in various directions instead of focusing light on a common point. You may experience eye strain, headaches, and poor night vision, as well as blurry vision at near and far distances. Many people are born with astigmatism which may be accompanied by farsightedness or nearsightedness (myopia).

Early diagnosis is key. That’s why it’s essential to schedule comprehensive eye exams. You should also contact our eye experts whenever you have a question about your vision. During your examination, you’ll receive a variety of tests to evaluate how your eyes bend light. Bright lighting and prescription contact lenses or eyeglasses can compensate for astigmatism, restoring clear vision. Laser correction surgery provides a more permanent solution, and most people can benefit from LASIK for astigmatism.

Understanding Myopia

Myopia is commonly referred to as nearsightedness. An elongated eyeball or curved cornea interferes with light rays entering the eye. This causes light to focus in front of the retina, so far objects appear unclear. However, you may clearly see near objects. Symptoms include squinting, eye strain, and headaches. This condition typically appears in childhood and may worsen as you grow older.

Treating myopia early can help prevent vision-threatening problems that may develop as you age. So, bring your children in for regular eye exams and schedule appointments to safeguard your eyesight. Your eye doctor will examine the structures of your eyes and test your vision to diagnose astigmatism, myopia, and other refractive errors.

Differentiating Astigmatism and Myopia

The visual characteristics of astigmatism and myopia differ based on how severe the condition is. However, they do share some common symptoms. While people with astigmatism have blurry vision at every distance, myopia typically does not impact near vision.

At the same time, both conditions cause eye strain and headaches. However, astigmatism may make night driving harder while myopia makes it difficult to see the whiteboard in school. Another key difference is that astigmatism requires eyeglasses or contact lenses with cylindrical power. Myopia requires vision aids that compensate for refractive errors.

Treatment Options for Astigmatism

Our team can typically treat astigmatism with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery.

Eyeglasses for Astigmatism

Eyeglasses with corrective lenses make up for an unevenly shaped eye. The lenses bend light so that it focuses on the retina. Some people prefer eyeglasses to contact lenses because they feel they are more comfortable and easier to use.

Contact Lenses to Treat Astigmatism

Like eyeglasses, contact lenses can correct most astigmatism. Toric contact lenses are designed to address astigmatism and are the most common type used to restore vision for this condition. The special shape of these lenses corrects for a misshaped lens or cornea.

You may opt for rigid contact lenses designed to correct the curvature of the eye. This process is called orthokeratology. Gradually, you’ll wear the lenses less often as your eye shape evens out. However, discontinuing the treatment may result in recurring refractive errors. Additionally, orthokeratology is more suited for mild to moderate cases of astigmatism.

Many people prefer contact lenses because they don’t want the inconvenience of wearing glasses. You may also prefer the look of contact lenses, which aren’t noticeable. However, it’s important to avoid wearing contact lenses for extended periods and use proper hygiene to store and clean them.

Ask your eye doctor about the pros and cons of contact lenses versus eyeglasses to treat your astigmatism.

Astigmatism Refractive Surgery

Our eye surgeon uses a laser beam to reshape your cornea and reverse the refractive error associated with astigmatism. You’ll undergo a thorough evaluation to determine whether you’re a good candidate for refractive surgery and which procedure would work best for you.

Here are the different kinds of surgery for astigmatism:

  • Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK). Using an excimer laser, our eye surgeon will make a hinged flap in the cornea and then sculpt the cornea to the appropriate shape.
  • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). In this procedure, the protective cover is removed before the surgeon reshapes the cornea. The protective cover grows back naturally.


Treatment Options for Myopia

Eyeglasses and contact lenses are the primary methods of correcting myopia. However, there are also surgical options, including LASIK, PRK, and implantable lenses. Your eye doctor can help you determine the best method for your vision and lifestyle needs.

Eyeglasses for Myopia

Glasses are an effective solution to correct myopia. When you wear prescription eyeglasses, they change how light hits the retina to correct refractive errors. Eyeglasses are an ideal solution for children and adults with myopia and your eye doctor can provide a prescription following a routine eye exam.

Contact Lenses to Treat Myopia

Using the same vision tests, your doctor can provide a prescription for contact lenses that change the way light enters the eye. Contacts float on the surface of the cornea aided by your eye’s natural lubrication. Since they are set so close to the eye, they’re much thinner than glasses.

There are many types of contact lenses used to correct myopia:

  • Soft lenses are made of flexible plastic material. They cover the iris, pupil, and some of the sclera (the white part of the eye). There are many options, including daily and weekly lenses you throw out when you’re done using them.
  • Rigid lenses cover the pupil and the iris and are smaller than soft contacts. You’ll usually need to remove them at night, depending on the style you choose. Extended-wear rigid lenses are also available.
  • Implantable Contact Lenses require surgery. Your eye surgeon will implant an aphakic IOL (intraocular lens) between the iris and your natural lens. Another kind of ICL is positioned between the cornea and the iris. These lenses can be removed if needed.
  • Overnight contacts for myopia work the same way as orthokeratology contact lenses for astigmatism. They are worn only at night, and you’ll see clearly throughout the entire day. You have to wear ortho-k contacts every night to maintain your vision.

Myopia Corrective Eye Surgery

The only permanent treatment option for myopia is refractive surgery. Options include:

  • Custom LASIK surgery (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) corrects myopia and other refractive errors. It works the same way as LASIK for astigmatism.
  • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is less invasive and is performed directly on the surface of the eye. It’s a good option if you have a thin cornea or dry eyes.
  • Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) involves taking out your natural lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens implant (IOL). With RLE, you won’t have to worry about cataracts since the artificial lens will not deteriorate.

Coexistence of Astigmatism and Myopia

Having both irregular astigmatism and myopia is clearly not winning the vision lottery. However, these conditions can and do frequently coexist. If your cornea is too long and oddly shaped, symptoms may include blurrier vision than either of these conditions alone.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you have both astigmatism and myopia:

  • Prescription contact lenses or eyeglasses must correct for both conditions.
  • You may still notice some blurry vision, even when wearing your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
  • You may need to wear your glasses or contact lenses at all times for both near and distant vision.
  • Consider refractive surgery for a more permanent solution.

Lifestyle and Prevention Tips

You can sometimes prevent or slow the progression of astigmatism and myopia by following these tips:

  • Limit time on digital devices, taking frequent breaks.
  • Don’t read or work in dim light.
  • Go outdoors and expose your eyes to natural light and distant objects.
  • Wear sunglasses to block harmful UVA and UVB rays.
  • Eat healthy foods that provide your eyes with essential nutrients.
  • Schedule regular eye exams to prevent or detect any vision problems.

Visionary Eye Doctors provide LASIK and other refractive surgeries as well as prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses. Contact us today for assistance overcoming myopia and astigmatism and restored vision.