Causes of Red Eye


Those who suffer from repeated occurrences of red eye will know that the condition can feel hot, irritating or potentially painful. While there are many ways to treat red eye, in this article we specifically look at the causes and symptoms, and try to understand ultimately what it all means for people who suffer from it, so they can be more prepared if they happen to experience it frequently. 

What is Red Eye?

Red eye is a condition that can be caused by particles entering the eye. This can cause pain, soreness and may involve other symptoms. There are many causes for different forms of red eye, although mainly these are separate those we outline below. If you suffer from recurring eye ailments, or experience pain, then you may need to consider seeing a doctor to find out what could be the cause.

The Stats

In a 2007 survey conducted with Ipsos[1], 36% of respondents suffered red eye once every 1-3 months, and 22% once every 4-6 months. Due to this relatively infrequent occurrence, people may not think it’s important to treat and just cope with the issue and let it pass. 

The Causes of Red Eyes

The causes of eyes turning red are most likely due to minor problems, such as burst blood vessels or conjunctivitis. In these cases, the condition does not tend to affect your vision and should improve by itself. If your red eye doesn’t start to improve after a few days, you should see your GP[2].

Red eye could also stem from chlorine in swimming pools, lack of sleep, eye strain, or smoky or polluted air. When eye irritants land on the eye they can scratch the surface, causing a reaction that feels painful. Washing and re-moistening your eye can be effective methods of clearing away the problem, and help to allow your eyes to get back to their more natural whiter colour. 

The Symptoms of Red Eye

Eye watering, tight or gritty eyes are also typical symptoms and feelings associated with red eye – and possibly pain too.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, go to see a GP as soon as you can, as these may indicate a more serious condition:

  • Severe ocular pain
  • Reduced visual acuity
  • Light sensitivity

Some Ways to Prevent Red Eye

Many cases of redness can be prevented by trying to avoid associated causes. Here are some tips:

  • If your eye becomes contaminated, you may find it necessary to flush it out immediately But try to use an approved eye wash solution
  • Avoid activities that can cause eye strain, such as reading for too long in poor light or looking at the TV or computer screen for excessive periods of time.
  • Do not wear contact lenses longer than recommended by your optician.
  • Clean your contact lenses as instructed and regularly.
  • Remove all makeup from your eyes each day.
  • Wear sunglasses out of doors in the sun. This can help protect against airborne irritants as well as dryness.

[1] 2007 Ipsos Capibus – Internal Optrex Document – All respondents suffered from at least one eye condition.

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