You had a good night’s sleep and nothing out of the ordinary happened the night before, but somehow you woke up with a red-eye. It may be watery, itchy or it may have some kind of discharge. Your eye may have been shut and you had to pry it open, one eye or both eyes may be affected or it could be painful or sensitive to light or it may feel like something is in your eye. Does this scenario sound familiar?
Possible Causes of Red Eyes: You then start to ponder how something like this could suddenly have happened when your eyes felt absolutely fine the night before. Did something get inside your eye? Is it contact lens related? Were you around anyone with “pink eye?” Were you sick recently with a sore throat or an upper respiratory infection and it has now spread to your eyes? Do you have some kind of auto-immune disorder which could be affecting your eyes? Did you scratch your eye? Do you get allergies and your eyes are now affected? Do you have dry eyes? It could possibly be any of the above!
The question is, what is your next step and what do you do about it? You are most likely to wash your eyes, and perhaps apply some artificial tears and then wait to see what happens. If your eye does not feel any better or if it starts to get worse you probably would quickly run over to CVS or Rite Aid and buy some kind of over the counter eye drops. What eye drops do you buy?
Red Eyes Can Be Caused By:
Infection – bacteria and viruses.
Non infection – allergies, dry eyes, scratched cornea, foreign body etc.
Improper use of contact lenses and contact lens solutions
What Drops To Buy? Do you buy allergy drops, artificial tears for dry eyes or drops to take the “red” out of your eye? It really depends on what the cause of the red-eye is, doesn’t it? If the cause is non-infection and your eyes are really itchy and both your eyes are affected, allergy drops and artificial tears may help. If the cause is infection, contact lens associated, scratched cornea or inflammation, you would need to see your eye doctor to get the diagnosis and the correct type of drops and treatment. Most patients see their eye doctors for a red-eye after they have tried some kind of over the counter eye drop unsuccessfully.
What about the drops that take the “red” out of your eye? How do those drops work? They work by constricting the blood vessels in the eye. Once constricted, the eye now appears “less red.” Is the drop solving the cause of the red-eye or is it simply making the eye look better by “hiding” the red eye? Furthermore, with constricted blood vessels, the eye now receives less blood flow and nutrition. The package insert will state not to overuse these drops because it can cause a condition called rebound hyperaemia – the eye becomes more red once the drops are stopped. If the red-eye is not due to a serious problem, this drop may work fine as a quick fix but it should not be overused
more than 3 days. If the red-eye persists, there is discharge, pain or your vision is affected, you would be wise to see your eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) right away.
As the case may be, it would be plausible and wise to see your eye doctor from the very onset of your red-eye. Your eye doctor is second to none and is well-trained and experienced to diagnose and treat your red-eye and to provide the best treatment plan. Otherwise, any other way, makes you guess what drops to choose. Our eyes are our most important of our senses. They are the window to our world and they certainly deserve the best treatment.