If the whites of your eyes, known as the scleras, occasionally take on a pink or reddish hue, you aren’t alone. It’s a common occurrence that affects nearly everyone to some degree at some point in their lifetime.
Although red eyes are often merely reactions to harmless stimuli, the discoloration may be a sign of a serious health condition. Our team of expert ophthalmologists here at Wolchok Eye Associates in Jacksonville, Florida, want you to be aware of the different causes of red eyes, so you know when and how to self-treat and when to come see us for professional care.
Things that cause red eyes
Dozens of factors can lead to eye redness, and they range from benign to serious. We’ve broken down the list into three categories here.
Your eyes are sensitive to particles in the air, so there’s a long list of elements in your work or home environment that may cause redness, including:
- Chlorine (in swimming pools)
- Pollen and allergens
- Chemicals and fumes (gas and solvents)
- Smog and pollution
- Too much sun
- Dry air
Exposure to any of these can cause temporary irritation and redness. In these cases, you may be able to relieve the redness by eliminating the irritating source and rinsing your eyes with clean, cool water. A cold compress can also soothe the discomfort and reduce redness.
If your red eyes are the result of allergies, an antihistamine may do the trick. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays, and use a humidifier to moisten the air in your home or office.
Eye redness may also be a symptom of a medical condition, such as dry eye or eye allergies.
You may also experience red eyes if you wear contact lenses for too long or if you spend hours reading or staring at a computer screen, which can irritate your eyes.
Over-the-counter eye drops formulated to hydrate your eyes may help ease the discomfort of tired, overly strained eyes, but if you have severe allergies, it’s best to come see us for proper treatment and medication.
We also strongly caution our patients to steer clear of eye drops that remove redness unless we prescribe them. These products contain a vasoconstrictor that can shrink your blood vessels, but they may also cause your blood vessels to increase in size larger than before you began using the drops and may cause pain and vision changes.
Your eyes may be red because of a more serious underlying condition that needs immediate attention. These include:
- Infections, such as blepharitis, cellulitis, conjunctivitis (known as pink eye), uveitis, or keratitis
- Corneal damage or ulcers
Mild eye redness, especially if you know exactly what caused it (like sitting near a campfire), is easily remedied on your own, but if you have sudden onset of redness along with vision changes, headache, or any other symptoms, we urge you to come in right away.
Once we diagnose the underlying cause of your eye redness, we offer you the most appropriate treatment to not only ease the discoloration, but also resolve the source of the problem as well.
For example, if glaucoma is causing the redness, you may benefit from medication, a laser treatment, or a surgical procedure to address the condition.
If you have chronic dry eyes, we may suggest special eye drops or punctal plugs to solve the issue.
Once you know what’s causing your red eyes, you can take steps to alleviate the problem. But don’t try to figure it out on your own. Our team is here to help you get to the bottom of your red eye problem and find the right solution. To learn more, contact us by phone or online to arrange an appointment for your red eyes.