Pink or red eyes may look alarming, but they’re not always a sign of a serious problem. In fact, often, they’re caused by something as simple as a cold or allergy. Other times, though, reddish or pinkish eyes are a symptom of an underlying medical problem.
It can be hard to tell the difference between a “benign” cause and a serious cause on your own, which is why it’s important to know when red eyes need a doctor’s attention.
At Advanced Eye Center in Hialeah, Florida, Rodrigo Belalcazar, MD, uses advanced techniques to diagnose the causes of red eyes, providing patient-centered treatment to relieve symptoms and prevent more serious complications. If you have red eyes, here’s what you should know.
Why eyes can look red
Red eyes happen when the tiny blood vessels in the sclera (the white part of the eye) become irritated and dilated, causing the sclera to look pinkish. Sometimes, individual vessels can be more visible, too, and create a “bloodshot” look.
In addition to “benign” causes, such as colds, allergies, or exposure to smoke or dust, more serious underlying problems can also make your eyes look red, such as the following:
Dry eye syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common causes of red eyes, and though it might not sound like a serious eye problem, without proper treatment, dry eye syndrome can increase your risk of developing serious eye infections.
Digital eye strain
Many people develop red eyes from using their computers or phones too much. When we use computers or other electronics, we don’t blink as much, and that can lead to irritation and dry eyes. Lighted screens can also cause our eyes to continually refocus, which can increase eye strain and irritation.
Eye infections happen when harmful pathogens enter the eye. Infections can occur in any part of the eye, as well as in the lining of the eyelids. Many eye infections cause eye redness, including conjunctivitis, which is also called “pink eye.”
In glaucoma, interior eye pressure rises, and without prompt care, it can damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss. Sometimes, blood vessels in the eye can also become dilated and cause a red or bloodshot appearance.
Inflammation can also cause the blood vessels in your eyes to dilate. When your eyes are inflamed, it’s a sign of an underlying eye problem, such as an infection, eye injury, or autoimmune disease.
Contact lens wear
Contact lenses can be a great alternative to glasses. But sometimes, contacts can irritate your eyes and cause redness, burning, itching, or a combination of these symptoms. Contact lenses can even irritate or scratch your corneas, which can increase your risk for developing serious eye infections.
When to see the eye doctor
You should always call Dr. Belalcazar if eye redness is accompanied by other symptoms, such as the following:
- Eye pain
- Sudden changes in vision
- Light sensitivity or halos around lights
- Problems keeping your eye — or eyes — open
- Foreign object in your eye
- Any type of injury to your eye
You should also call the office if you have chronic or recurrent red eyes, or if your eyes stay red for more than a couple days. Delaying treatment could allow an underlying problem to become worse, and it could even threaten your vision.
Don’t let red eyes go untreated. Get the care you need by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Advanced Eye Center today.