Causes of Red eye | Pink eye
Red eye or pink eye is one of the most common symptoms that everyone comes across in daily lives whatever the reason might be, in which the transparent membrane covering white part of the eye called conjunctiva, gets inflamed and becomes red (conjunctivitis). Red eye can be contagious or non-contagious. There are different factors that can result in red eyes including infection, dust, injury, health issues and certain disorders of the eye. Some types of Red eyes can be painful and vision threatening, while some resolve on their own. Delaying treatment of red eyes may also result in complications including blurred vision, scars on the cornea and blindness. You should see an eye doctor if you have red eyes.
Causes of Red eyes
The most common causes of red eyes include:
1. Conjunctivitis- It is inflammation of the transparent layer of the eye in which the eyes become red and bloodshot. Conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by bacteria, virus, allergy and other pathogens. Conjunctivitis causes watery or yellowish discharge from the eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis can have mild to intense itching. Usually, there is no pain but it can be associated with discomfort and has a gradual or sudden onset.
2. Keratitis– Inflammation of the cornea is known as keratitis. Keratitis can cause red, blurry and painful eye. Untreated keratitis can result in corneal scars or opacity and blindness depending on the severity.
3. Glaucoma– It is a condition when there is a rise in the eye pressure (intraocular pressure) due to the blockage in the pathway of aqueous humor, the fluid produced by ciliary muscles in the eye. Increased eye pressure can also cause red eye and blurred vision.
4. Sub-conjunctival hemorrhage– It is another cause for red eyes or red spots on the white part of the eyes where blood is present deep and beneath the conjunctiva. Subconjunctival hemorrhage can result from trauma to the eye or as a complication of any systemic disease. Rubbing eyes can also sometimes cause red spots due to the rupture of tiny blood vessels on the conjunctiva. Usually, it has no pain.
5. Foreign body– If a foreign body is present on the cornea or conjunctiva, eyes become red, painful and irritated. You should see an eye doctor to have them removed and prevent eyes from further damage.
6. Environmental causes –Various Allergens such as those coming from air pollution, smoke from industries, dry air and any form of dust can result in the irritation causing redness of the eye.
7. Fumes- Fumes that are present in the air such as gasoline can also cause allergies in the eyes.
8. Exposure to chemicals– When eyes are exposed to chemicals such as chlorinated water while swimming, it can cause redness of the eyes. Divers and sewerage workers are at higher risk to get exposed to different chemicals that can cause inflammation of parts of the eye ending up with red eyes.
9. Excessive exposure to sunlight– When any protective tool is not used such as glasses or shield and sunlight gets more and more into the eye, it can also result in redness of the eye.
10. Eye surgeries– Eye surgeries such as cataract, LASIK etc. can also cause red eye. With the treatment under the guidance of your eye doctor, it resolves after some time.
11. Lifestyle factors – There are many lifestyle factors which can result in redness of the eye e.g. Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption.
12. Excessive use of electronic devices– The overuse of digital devices can result in eye fatigue and dry eyes because of less blinking of the eyes. Dry eyes makes eyes irritated and red.
Symptoms of red eye
Red eye can be in one eye or both eyes accompanied by symptoms such as pain in the eyes ranging from mild to severe and gradual or sudden. It can also cause burning eyes, blurred vision, tearing/watering, itching, light sensitivity and even loss of vision depending on the type and cause of red eyes. If you have bacterial conjunctivitis, you may have yellowish mucus discharge with foreign body sensation and pain or discomforts. In viral conjunctivitis, eyes may be frequently watering. Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by allergens such as pollen, dust, dander etc. and your eyes become itchy. Allergic conjunctivitis can range from mild to severe depending on the nature of the type of allergens.
How to get rid of red bloodshot eyes?
In order to get rid of red eyes, it is important to minimize the risk factors. Bacterial or viral conjunctivitis are contagious and can spread to other people by touching contaminated surfaces. You should wash your hands after touching your eyes and not share your towels or objects with family members. You should also take the following measures to prevent red eyes or conjunctivitis.
- Avoid the triggers such as dust, smoke and use of cosmetics that a person is allergic to
- Never wear contact lenses until the redness of the eyes disappear.
- Try not to rub your eyes
- Never use electronic devices in during bed time or in the dark for a long time
- Maintain a well sleeping pattern at least for 6-8 hours
- Always wear sun glasses or protective shields when you are working on a sunny day for a long time or when working at mechanic, welding and repair shops
- Wash your eyes with warm water frequently
- Always visit an ophthalmologist if there are symptoms such as blurry vision or when there is sudden or gradual deterioration of vision.
- Take a shower after coming back home from outside if the air was dusty or if it is the pollen allergy season.
Treatment of red eye
The treatment of red eyes varies depending on the underlying causes weather there is involvement of only the conjunctiva or the sclera or both. It requires more of a specific approach if the cause is glaucoma or foreign body penetration into the eye or sub-conjunctival hemorrhage. If you have red eyes, you should consult your eye doctor. The general approach for the treatment of red eyes includes:
Infection– Your doctor usually prescribes antibiotics eye drops or ointment and oral pills if you have conjunctivitis due to infection.
Dry eyes– If the cause of redness is dry eyes, your eye doctor may recommend artificial tears more frequently. Depending on the severity, you may also need other treatments for dry eyes e.g. punctual plugs, cauterization etc.
Allergic– Anti allergic eye drops and oral anti allergic pills are usually prescribed by eye doctors to manage the symptoms of pollen allergy or irritation caused by dust to stop the excessive secretions and relieve allergy symptoms.
Foreign body/ trauma– Foreign body embedded to the cornea is usually removed in the doctor’s office. If it has penetrated and stuck in the eye, your eye surgeon will do surgical procedure in the operating room to remove foreign body.
Systemic illnesses– Such as leukemia or diseases in which the platelet levels are diminished, it is important to maintain the cell lines in range to minimize the risk of bleeding from the eye.