Red eye is a very common condition. Many people think they have an eye infection and request antibiotic drops; however, a bacterial infection of the eye is not that common, especially if the condition has been going on for weeks, and a lot of times antibiotic eye drops are not appropriate. Some common causes of red eye are below.
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage: Burst blood vessel on the surface of the eye. More common in people taking aspirin or blood thinners. This is a harmless condition. Nothing will make the redness go away quickly; it just takes time.
- Dry eye and blepharitis: These are very common causes of chronically mildly red and irritated eyes.
- Allergic conjunctivitis: The main symptom is itchiness. Over-the-counter allergy eye drops, such as Pataday, Zaditor, and Alaway, are pretty good for this condition.
- Viral conjunctivitis (“pinkeye”): Frequently happens after a recent upper respiratory infection. Highly contagious. May start with one eye then move to the other. Because the cause is a virus, antibacterial antibiotic eye drops are useless. Improvement simply requires time.
- Eyelid problems: If the lower eyelids are not in the proper position, the health of the surface of the eye becomes compromised, and the eyes are chronically red and irritated.
- Cornea ulcers: This condition is more common in contact lens wearers and does require antibiotic drops for treatment. Early treatment is essential.
- Iritis or uveitis: Inflammation inside the eye that causes light sensitivity and requires steroid eye drops for treatment.
- Medication side effect: Red eyes are a common side effect of many glaucoma eye drops.
Your eye doctor can help you figure out which ones of these conditions are causing your red eye.