How is viral conjunctivitis (pink eye) diagnosed?

Updated: Mar 24, 2020
  • Author: Ingrid U Scott, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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Answer

Generally, a diagnosis of viral conjunctivitis is made on the clinical features alone. Laboratory tests are typically unnecessary, but they may be extremely helpful in some cases, particularly when an epidemic of adenoviral keratoconjunctivitis threatens a community or clinic. Specimens can be obtained by culture and conjunctival cytology smear if inflammation is severe, in chronic or recurrent infections, with atypical conjunctival reactions, and in patients who fail to respond to treatment. Giemsa staining of conjunctival scrapings may aid in characterizing the inflammatory response. A rapid point-of-service immunoassay is now readily available to guide the clinician’s recommendations upon initial presentation (Adenoplus, RPS, Sarasota, FL). Approximately 1 in 4 patients with acute conjunctivitis have confirmed adenoviral conjunctivitis. Adenoplus detects all known serotypes of adenoviral conjunctivitis. [1, 2]  

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