Common Causes of a Red Eye

by Aug 7, 2019

Bloodshot and red eyes can have many different causes, each needing different treatment approaches.  Some triggers of red eyes are more serious, painful, or vision-threatening than others. Many problems that cause red eyes require attention by an eye care professional, though a few are self-limiting and will go away on their own.  To learn more about the some of the more common causes of red eyes, continue reading.  

red eye


“Pink Eye” Infections

Pink eye is the generic term given to a group of eye conditions also known as conjunctivitis.  Conjunctivitis refers to a condition in which the conjunctiva, or the clear tissue overlying the white portion of your eye, is inflamed or infected.  There are three main type of conjunctivitis: allergic, viral, and bacterial. As the name suggests, allergic conjunctivitis is an immune response triggered by allergens, and typically causes itchy, irritated eyes.  It can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription eye drops. Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a viral infection, and the symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to unbearable depending on the virus causing the infection.  These forms of pink eye typically cause watery uncomfortable eyes with associated light sensitivity. Viral conjunctivitis, which is contagious, typically has to run its course without a true treatment, though there are some drops or medications that can be given to help relieve symptoms as the condition resolves.  Bacterial conjunctivitis is rare in adults, but can pose a serious threat to the eye if left untreated. These infections will need antibiotic drops and urgent medical attention. 


Contact Lens and Red Eye

Several factors in contact lens wearers can cause redness.  Many people can notice bloodshot eyes simply from dryness, which some contact lens wearers experience on a daily basis.  If there is associated severe pain that accompanies the redness, it can be the sign of a corneal ulcer due to an infection, which requires immediate attention from an eye care professional.  Commonly, red eyes in contact lens wearers is a mildly inflammatory response to irritation of the eyes and eyelids due to proteins or other materials on the lenses. Replacing the old pair of contact lenses, or temporarily discontinuing contact lens wear, may help the problem; however, if the redness and discomfort persist, an visit to the optometrist is in order. 


Inflammation and Red Eyes

A group of inflammatory conditions known as uveitis can be another cause of a red or bloodshot eye.  Uveitis occurs when certain structures inside the eye, such as the iris, become inflamed. Symptoms usually include light sensitivity, blurred vision, discomfort, in addition to redness.  Sometimes this can happen without a specific cause, though uveitis is also associated with systemic inflammatory conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. These episodes of inflammation require medical attention and typically require treatment with topical steroid eye drops. 


Eye Injuries

Injuries to the front surface of the eye can cause significant redness and irritation, and usually are quite painful.  A common ocular injury is known as a corneal abrasion, in which the most superficial surface of the cornea is damaged. Luckily, in the case of an abrasion, the corneal tissue quickly heals and the pain is short-lived.  However, in more serious injuries, there is a risk for significant corneal damage. In the case of an injury to the eye, your optometrist should be visited or informed.  


If you or a family member have developed a red eye, pink eye, or suffered an eye injury, ask your optometrist at Neal Eye Group about the treatment options available.   Call us at (610) 828-9701 or schedule your appointment online for an eye exam with the Neal Eye Group.  We serve Conshohocken, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Whitemarsh.



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