A red or pink eye — although usually painless — is visually disturbing. When people look at you, they look mainly at your eyes. People judge your health and well being by how your eyes look. Eyes look red when blood vessels near the surface of the eye become enlarged and dilated. If you have red eyes, it is important to find out why. Red eyes have several primary causes including: irritation, infection, allergies, or underlying health problems.

There are many possible causes of red eyes; therefore, it is important to have an Optometrist examine your eyes to determine the cause and best treatment. Here are some of the most common causes:

• Allergies: Dust, pollen, mold, environmental (smog, pollution, etc.)
• Infections: bacterial (may have mucopurulent discharge and crusting), viral (may have runny nose, sinus congestion, swollen eyelids). Both are very contagious.
• Sexually transmitted: Herpes Simplex, Chlamydia
• Dry Eye: insufficient tear production, hormonal, age, systemic health problems
• Excessive UV/sun exposure: tanning beds, sports: skiing, surfing, etc.
• Environmental: smog, chemicals, wind, blowing dust
• Eye strain: prolonged computer work or visual tasks decreases blink rate
• Lack of sleep
• Contact Lens wear: wearing contact lenses too long, or not replacing lenses as prescribed
• Uveitis: is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye where most of the blood vessels are. Symptoms include redness, pain, blurry vision, floaters and light sensitivity. Uveitis can be caused by health problems such as autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis. Uveitis can also be associated with AIDS, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, herpes zoster, and syphilis. Uveitis should be treated quickly because other complications, such as glaucoma, cataracts, or retinal and choroidal scarring, may occur if it left untreated.
• Blepharitis: a chronic infection and inflammation of the eyelids
• Lid Lice (Pthiriasis Palpebrarum)
• Smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol
• Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma: Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a serious medical emergency and must be treated immediately.
• Subconjunctival Hemmorage: It can be caused by a Valsalva maneuver such as hard sneezing, coughing, intense straining, vomiting, trauma, high blood pressure, diabetes and sometimes from certain blood disorder problems
• Injury:Corneal abrasion, ocular trauma, sports injury
• Corneal Ulcer or Infection: The cornea has no blood vessels of its own. When the cornea becomes infected, surrounding blood vessels enlarge to bring immune system-related cells to help fight the infection.
• Frequent Use of Eye Drops: Constant use of one of the “get the red out” eye drops can cause over dilation of the eyes’ blood vessels. A rebound hyperemia effect can occur when you stop using the drops because the body becomes accustomed to being chemical constricted by the eye drops. After the effect of the eye drop wears off, the blood vessels sometimes dilate larger, causing the eyes to appear even more bloodshot

If you have a red or pink eye, see your Optometrist immediately. In case your red eye is contagious, be careful not to spread the infection. Wash your hands often, do not share linens, do not share make up, and do not go swimming. Discard any liquid make up that you are using, and soft contact lenses.

Do not use medications prescribed for someone else, or leftover from an old infection. The medication may not be appropriate for your current condition, and the bottle may be infected from touching the eye during previous use.

If you, or your child, are experiencing other symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, earache, the symptoms may be caused by the same bacteria, and you may need an oral antibiotic in addition to the treatment for your eyes.

The bottom line is that pink or red eyes can be caused by many reasons. Make an appointment immediately with your Optometrist to determine the cause and best treatment for you or your child.

Dr. Elise Brisco

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