Pink eye (conjunctivitis) gets its common name from the appearance of your eyes during infection. The Mayo Clinic explains, “Inflammation causes small blood vessels in the conjunctiva to become more prominent, which is what causes the pink or red cast to the whites of your eyes.” Your eyes will probably be watery and will feel sore and irritated. The eyelids may be inflamed, and you may experience photosensitivity. Slightly blurred vision is common. In short, your eyes will look and feel like someone took a piece of sandpaper to them.
Symptom duration. In most cases, symptoms will clear up fairly quickly (within 24 hours) after the start of treatment. If left to heal on its own, some types of conjunctivitis will resolve within several days, while others may persist until you seek treatment. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, runny eyes and some residual soreness may persist for a short time even after the primary infection has cleared.
Severity of symptoms. Conjunctivitis does not usually cause any serious damage in an otherwise healthy adult, especially if it’s treated promptly. Some forms of conjunctivitis can occur at or soon after birth, and these may cause long-term vision problems if they're not treated immediately. Immune-suppressed individuals may experience much more severe symptoms or may experience additional infections as a result of conjunctivitis. In most cases, pink eye does not seriously impede your eyesight or your ability to perform normal daily activities, though it’s probably a good idea to refrain from work or social engagements until the infection clears so it doesn’t spread to anyone else.
Managing symptoms. While most cases of pink eye will eventually resolve themselves, treatment is recommended to help prevent spreading this highly contagious disease. During the course of the infection, you may experience some relief from cool, wet washcloths placed on your eyes. Make sure to launder these washcloths promptly after use, and do not use them for anything else in order to prevent spreading the infection. Avoid bright lights, and make sure to drink plenty of fluids so that your production of natural tears is not compromised.