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Red Eyes? What to do if You Have Red Eye

Red eye is not a specific diagnosis but a physical finding that indicates pathology in the eye – an underlying condition.


Symptoms of Red Eye

  • Bloodshot eyes? Often the bloodshot appearance is due to blood vessels on the white part of the eye dilating and looking fuller than normal. Infections, inflammatory conditions, acute glaucoma, allergies, dry eye, corneal abrasions and trauma / foreign bodies are some of the more common causes of this kind of red eye.

  • Is the white of the eye looking uniformly red like a red spot or hemorrhage? This can be in a focal area, or throughout the white of the eye. This type of red eye comes from a hemorrhage from a small blood vessel on the surface of the eye.

  • Is this pink eye? Not necessarily.

    • “Pink eye” usually refers to viral conjunctivitis. This is when a virus similar to the common cold virus infects the eye, and results in itchy, watery eyes with a bloodshot appearance.

    • While this kind of red eye is infectious and can spread readily to others, there are many kinds of red eye that are NOT infectious.

    • An evaluation with an ophthalmologist can help determine whether or not a red eye is infectious.


Should red eye have me concerned?

While it may be nothing, red eyes could indicate a more serious problem that usually requires urgent care. These include:

  • Corneal ulcers

  • Acute glaucoma

  • A corneal foreign body

  • Iritis (inflammation of the eye).

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