It is important to note that a red eye is not a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of a possible underlying problem, that does not always need to be treated. The temptation to try non-specific medication, mostly found in the medicine cabinet, should be avoided if possible since the inadvertent use of the wrong medicine can further aggravate the already inflamed eye. Ideally a specific diagnosis should be made and treated appropriately with the appropriate treatment. Many of the commonly used over the counter topical drops found at pharmacies will transiently improve the redness of the eye, but this will soon be followed by an aggravation of the redness. This is due to a transient narrowing of the blood vessels, followed by an enlarging of the blood vessels with increased redness. The underlying cause is not treated at all and due to the alternating white and red eye the patient becomes dependent on the drops.
The most common causes of a red eye is allergies, inflammation, infection and a foreign body. A clue to the possible diagnosis will be whether one or both are affected. Patients with allergies often present though with symptoms in only one eye although both eyes are affected. The timing of the redness, possible coinciding with other allergies like hay fever during the change in the season, is an important clue. Allergic eye infections causes severe itching and sensitiveness, but does not pose any risk to a patients’ health or vision in most instances, and therefore does not need to be treated in all circumstances. Inflammation is a non-specific irritation of the eye with redness, tenderness and swelling, but in contrast to infections, there is no organisms involved. Different organisms like viruses, bacteria and fungi can cause an infection of the eyes. A very important cause of eye infections are contact lens use, and the most important cause is poor hygiene and misuse with patients sleeping with their contact lenses in or wearing them longer that the prescribed period. Contact lenses are used successfully by millions of people to correct their spectacle errors and are a great alternative to spectacles, but good hygiene and care is essential, otherwise the risk of losing vision is approximately one percent for every year of contact lens use. The eye is very well adapt at getting rid of any foreign material that accidentally enter the eye. The foreign bodies that usually get stuck on the surface of the eye is warm pieces of metal or plastic that burn onto the surface, or plant material like seeds that have small hooks that get stuck on the surface of the eye.
Whatever the cause of a red eye, an accurate diagnosis and early appropriate treatment is essential in order to achieve rapid relief. Get in touch of you have a case of Red eye that you would like us to look at for you.