Eye redness is fairly common, probably in part because so many things can trigger redness. While some of those causes are benign, others can be serious, which is why chronic eye redness should never be ignored.
Eye redness occurs when the tiny blood vessels just under the surface of the eye dilate due to irritation or inflammation. Dilation makes the white part of the eye (the sclera) look pink, and sometimes, irritation makes individual vessels stand out, too.
At Advanced Eye Center in Hialeah, Florida, Rodrigo Belalcazar, MD, helps relieve the symptoms of red eyes and helps prevent more serious problems from developing. If you have red eyes, here are eight possible causes you should know about.
Allergies are a common cause of red eyes, mostly caused by airborne irritants, such as pollen, dander, smoke, or chemicals. In addition to redness, your eyes might burn, itch, or “water,” or you may have symptoms like a runny nose or sneezing.
2. Dry eyes
Dry eyes happen when you don’t produce enough tears, your lids don’t spread your tears effectively across your eyes, or your tear quality is poor, allowing moisture to evaporate too quickly. Many people have dry eyes as a “side effect” of too much computer use, but dry eyes can happen for other reasons, too, including underlying eye problems and even the use of some medications.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the front of your eye. Also called pink eye, conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or even allergies. You can’t tell what’s causing conjunctivitis just by looking at your eye, so you should always have it medically evaluated.
While some causes of pink eye, such as allergies, can often be treated at home with a little extra TLC, infections require prompt medical treatment. Putting off medical care can allow the infection to spread and get worse, drastically increasing your risk of developing more serious eye problems and even permanent vision loss.
The second leading cause of blindness globally, glaucoma is a condition that damages the optic nerve. It usually occurs when pressure builds up inside the eye, which leads to compression and damage of the optic nerve. The increase in pressure also usually affects the blood vessels in the eye, sometimes causing the eyes to look reddish or pinkish.
6. Corneal scratches
Your cornea is the clear lens that’s located over your iris. By bending or refracting the light as it enters your eye, your corneas help you see clearly. Located right at the front of your eye, the cornea can easily become scratched by grit or other foreign materials. Even a tiny scratch can have serious consequences and threaten your vision, so prompt medical treatment is essential.
7. Pollutant exposure
Exposure to smoke, chemicals, and other pollutants is a common cause of red eyes, and this type of eye redness tends to clear up after the exposure stops. Sometimes, though, the irritation continues, causing discomfort and potentially making your eyes more prone to infection. Dr. Belalcazar can prescribe drops if needed to soothe your eyes and prevent further problems.
8. Contact lenses
Contact lenses can be a real boon to anyone who doesn’t want to feel tied to glasses all day long. But, they can also cause irritation and dryness. If you wear contacts, only wear them as directed. Never sleep in them, and only wear them for the time recommended by the doctor. Always use good hygiene when handling your lenses, clean them properly, and never re-wear disposable lenses.
What to do about red eyes
Eye redness often has benign causes, but sometimes, it can indicate a serious eye problem, such as infection or glaucoma. Furthermore, while eye redness can happen on its own, it’s usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- Eye discharge
- Crusting around the lashes
- Foreign body sensation
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing
Making a list of all your symptoms, including when they started, can be helpful in diagnosing and treating your eye redness. Your treatment will be based on what’s causing your symptoms, so we can relieve the redness and other symptoms while preventing complications.
Many people benefit from eye drops, including medicated eye drops and lubricating drops that supplement natural tears. Other problems, such as glaucoma or a corneal scratch, require different medications to protect your vision.
If you have red eyes, don’t ignore them. To learn what’s causing your red eyes — and how we can treat them — call 305-874-0115 or book an appointment online with Advanced Eye Center today.