Pink eye is often seen as a conjunctivitis which is an inflammation of the eye’s part conjunctiva. This may be caused due to infection or allergies. But very often, pink eyes can be mistaken for some other eye problems which may be really harmful for your eye and can lead to severe injury. To know what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye, read this comprehensive guide that can help you for future reference. 

What Is Commonly Misdiagnosed As Pink Eye?

Eye redness, itching, and irritation can be a sign of pink eye. To be more certain about what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye, let’s discuss all of them in brief. 

1. Stye (Hordeolum): 

A Stye is an eye problem that happens on the eyelashes but if it becomes severe, it can go into the eyelid. This happens due to bacterial infection of clogged oil glands. Sometimes, eye discharge may occur and lead to sticky eyes. 

Common Symptoms:

  • Eye redness
  • Painful bumps like pimples on eyelids
  • Swelling of eyelid
  • Inflammation
  • Watery eye
  • Light sensitivity


  • Use cool compressors
  • Dressing to drain the pus inside the bump. 
  • Antibiotics 

2. Blepharitis:

Blepharitis is also caused due to clogged oil glands and is often seen behind the eyelid or eyelashes

Common Symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry visions
  • Sensitivity
  • Foamy tears
  • Burning sensation
  • Sharpening pain
  • Irregular fallout of eyelashes


  • Artificial tears 
  • Warm compressor to cool off
  • Steroid eye drop
  • Antibiotics  

3. Keratitis:

This is another inflammation condition that occurs due to injury or infection. This may affect the cornea, which is the transparent outer layer of the eye. 

Common Symptoms

  • Discharge
  • Pain or irritation
  • Blurry sight
  • Watery discharge
  • Redness or itching


  • Antibiotics
  • Eye drops (only for infectious ones) 
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Artificial tears

4. Iritis:

Iritis, as the name suggests, develops majorly on Iris – the colored part of the eye. This inflammatory condition occurs in either one eye or both. This infection sometimes indicates that you have an auto-immune disorder type in your body. This Iritis is medically known as anterior uveitis, as it affects the middle layer – uvea of the eye. 

Common Symptoms

  • Discomfort
  • Red eye
  • Unclear vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Visible dark spots 
  • Floaters


  • Inject steroids or take them orally
  • Eye drops of steroid
  • Implants of steroid in eyes

5. Glaucoma:

This is a type of degenerative eye disorder, where the optic nerve gets damaged. Usually, in the early stages, it is not detectable with symptoms. But in advanced cases, it causes issues with the vision. 

Common Symptoms:

  • Eye pain 
  • Vision loss
  • Halos due to lights
  • Blurry sight
  • Pink eye


  • Laser treatment may be recommended (in advanced cases) 
  • Prescribed eye drops
  • Dressings of fluid

6. Corneal abrasion: 

This is the most commonly misdiagnosed eye infection that happens in the cornea of the eye. This corneal abrasion happens due to external injuries or because of coming in contact with foreign bodies like sand. 


  • Painkiller medicines
  • An eye patch to prevent further infection
  • Artificial tears
  • Antibiotics

Common Symptoms:

  • Redness 
  • Pain
  • Unclear sight
  • Rare discharge 

7. Chalazion: 

This is a bumpy pimple that develops on the back of the eyelid. Its most common symptoms are pink eye, tenderness in the eye, and swollen eyes. 

While identifying what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye, people often think of Chalazion as pink eye. You can take steroid shots and get surgery to drain the fluid from the bump.  

8. Scleritis: 

This inflammation happens due to injury in the white part of the eye sclera. This mostly is seen in one side of the eye. This eye problem also has the same symptoms as pink eye. But thick discharge from the eye does not occur. 

However, the patient faces pain in the eyes, jaws, and head. Take immunosuppressive medicines to get relief from pain and oral steroids for infection. 

Some Other Eye Conditions Mistaken For Pink Eye: 

The signs and symptoms of pink eye can slightly differ from one another. The cause of this pink eye can be mistaken for conjunctivitis too. It is a highly contagious eye issue that causes pain, and redness, and can spread with physical contact. There are mainly two kinds of conjunctivitis that you should know while identifying what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye. 

General Conjunctivitis:

This is a general and normal inflammatory condition. It causes redness or pink eye in the white eye part. The eyes become watery and a thick discharge may also be seen. 

The eyelashes become crusty, and the eyelid swells with a burning or itchy sensation. It often happens due to harsh weather, when dirt goes to the eyes, or due to the contact of any person who already is suffering from conjunctivitis. 

Allergic Conjunctivitis:

Allergic Conjunctivitis
Allergy symptoms flat style concept with tearing rash redness and runny nose vector illustration

As the name suggests, allergic conjunctivitis happens due to allergies to anything. Allergy to any material is the primary source of infection here. It mostly happens in both eyes. Some of the common symptoms of this allergic conjunctivitis are: 

  • Scratchy throat 
  • Pink eye
  • Swelling of eye
  • Asthma 
  • Sneezing 
  • Irritation in the nasal cavity
  • Runny nose

When To See A Doctor?

Seeing a doctor may be a good step for you to correctly diagnose your injury or inflammation. If you are having it once in a while, you won’t need to visit a doctor. But the injury or pink eye symptoms are occurring more often, so it is necessary to make a visit to your doctor. The doctor will inform you what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye, and will suggest the correct diagnosed medicines. 

Following are some signs when you should visit your doctor. 

  • When any of the above-mentioned symptoms seem to exist. 
  • When symptoms do not go away after a few days.
  • When you have come across any eye injury or infection due to allergies
  • When symptoms seem to be chronic like autoimmune illness. 

Why Does Correct Diagnosis Matters For Pink Eye?

Now that we know what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye, it is important to know why a correct diagnosis is necessary. There are various reasons why it is necessary, first the infection can be deadly and one must not take chances against their health. 

Following are some other reasons why correct diagnosis is important. 

1. Targeted treatment:

It is important to receive the right treatment at the right time. Treating wrongly may cause further infection or inflammation. It can lead to various deadly side effects of the medicine. 

2. Prevents complications:

The wrong treatment will cause discomfort and even cause complications in the body. The eye condition is important to treat correctly as it risks the vision and sight of a person, so to prevent vision loss and other complications, one must talk to their doctor and get the right treatment. 

The Bottom Line: 

In this guide on what is commonly misdiagnosed as pink eye, we understand how a wrong diagnosis can lead to various complications. It becomes important to get the right treatment at the right time. Pink eye is a very common infection or inflammatory condition that happens.

It can occur due to many reasons as we saw in the illness or eye problems mentioned above. Treating the eye carefully is a must as the eyes are the precious sensory organ of our body. So, if you have any problem, book your appointment with your doctor today. 


What is the major cause of pink eye?

There are many reasons why pink eye occurs. The most common cause of pink eye can be a viral or bacterial infection. It can be the result of inflammation or allergic reaction.

How long does conjunctivitis last?

General conjunctivitis may last for up to 2 days. And it will not cause any severe harm to your eyes. But if it is allergic conjunctivitis, it may take several days to clear lasting up to almost 3 weeks. To treat allergic conjunctivitis avoid using allergens, and take prescribed antihistamine eye drops.

Is Episcleritis a pink eye condition?

Yes, it is an inflammatory condition that happens in the episclera, a white layer of the eye. This can occur in both eyes or one eye and have a mostly unclear vision.