Eye Redness

Dr. Nithin Jayan
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nithin Jayan, MBBS, DNB
Last Updated on Oct 03, 2016
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‘Redness of the eye’ occurs due to the dilation of the blood vessels of the eye, which makes the eye look blood shot. In most cases it is a sign of inflammation or of a disease.

Commonly, redness of the eye is caused by exposure to sun or exposure to foreign bodies, dryness, infection, allergy or any other trauma.

Red eyes can also occur due to straining, as can be seen during excessive coughing. This leads to a bloody area on the sclera which usually clears up with time.

The degree of redness is not indicative of the seriousness of the condition. Usually, the redness of the eye is not a health threat and resolves on its own. However the following symptoms may indicate an underlying serious condition and may require medical attention –

  • Blurry Vision – Blurry vision, along with redness of the eye could indicate ocular disease and needs immediate medical attention
  • Pain – The inflammation caused by conjunctivitis may cause discomfort and certain amount of pain but ulcers in the cornea or acute glaucoma can cause severe pain.
  • Photophobia- Extreme sensitiveness to light is a sign of iritis, during which the eye’s ciliary muscle spasms and becomes inflamed. This extreme sensitivity causes severe pain and required medical attention.
  • Colored halos – are associated with corneal edema or acute glaucoma. If colored halo occurs with redness of the eye, then a consultation with doctor is mandatory.

Differential Diagnosis

The following are the eye conditions in which redness occurs as a symptom -

  • Blepharitis
  • Burns
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Contact lens
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Glaucoma
  • Herpes
  • Corneal Ulcer

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What are the causes of eye redness?

Redness of the eye and other symptoms are commonly caused by certain conditions that include –

  • Blepharitis – Occurs due to the inflammation of the eye lash follicles along the eyelid and is caused by skin bacteria.
  • Conjunctivitis - Inflammation of the eye surface or the conjunctiva, caused by bacteria, virus or a foreign particle.The condition is contagious, if caused by a bacteria or a virus.
  • Corneal ulcers – caused on the outer surface of the eye by bacteria or virus.
  • Uveitis – It involves the inflammation of the uvea of the eye and is often linked to an autoimmune disorder, certain infections or exposure to toxins.

Other reasons for redness of the eye involves cold, allergies, foreign particles in the eye, acute glaucoma, or bleeding from medications.

2) How is redness of the eye treated?

The key step to managing redness of the eye is to carry out a proper diagnosis at the proper time. Some conditions such as blepharitis, subconjunctival hemorrhage, conjunctivitis, foreign bodies, are uncomplicated and can be managed by a general physician. However, more conditions like Corneal ulcers, endophthalmitis iritis or penetrating foreign bodies must be treated as an emergency and must be seen by a specialist at the earliest. Those who are having problems with their vision, along with eye redness require immediate medical attention. Steroids must be administered only as directed by a specialist.

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