Have you ever wondered why your eyes are bloodshot?

We have all experienced red, bloodshot eyes at some point, either in one or both eyes. Blood vessels that feed the sclera, the white outer surface of the eye, can become swollen or dilated and this is when our eyes become red or bloodshot. Red eye may cause no other irritation; however bloodshot eyes can be accompanied by eye pain, watery eyes, itching, swollen eyes or blurred vision. Red eyes are commonly a reaction to allergies or eye injury and can appear suddenly or develop over a period of time.

What is red eye?

“Red eye” is a term that is used to describe red, irritated bloodshot eyes but can be used to describe specific conditions such as styes, blepharitis – inflamed eyelids or broken blood vessels on the sclera.

Red eye is not usually a cause for concern with red, bloodshot eyes typically being associated with allergies, eye fatigue, overuse of contact lenses and common eye infections such as conjunctivitis. However, redness of the eye can indicate a more serious condition, such as Glaucoma or Uveitis, so if your eye redness persists or worsens, you should speak with your local optician.

What is it about these conditions that cause eyes to become red and bloodshot? Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye” is highly contagious. When the thin, transparent membrane that covers the sclera and lines the eyelids, known as the conjunctiva, becomes infected, the blood vessels become irritated and swell, giving the eye a red or pink appearance. Be sure to visit your optician if you are concerned that you have contracted conjunctivitis, there are many different types and many different treatments.

Red eyes may be a sign of allergies. When we come into contact with a foreign substance, such as pollen or dust, our bodies release the hormone histamine, as a response to attack the allergens. This release of histamine causes the blood vessels in the eye to expand, resulting in the eyes becoming red and watery. Try to avoid anything that you know causes allergies or that you are sensitive to and speak with your optician about antihistamine eye drops.

One of the biggest causes of red eye is over-wearing or improper care of contact lenses. Both can cause a build up of bacteria in your eye. Keep your lenses clean and disinfected and adhere to the replacement guidelines set out by your optician. Speak with your optician about different types of lenses, gas-permeable lenses improve the amount of oxygen that can circulate around the cornea, reducing dry eye syndrome. If you are a contact lens wearer then red eyes could be an indication of a more serious eye infections such as keratitis (an inflammation of the cornea) or a fungal eye infection. If your eyes become red whilst wearing contact lenses, remove them immediately and contact your optician.

An infection of the cornea, left untreated, can develop into a more serious condition such as a corneal ulcer. An ulcer will cause eye pain, reduced vision and a watery eye. Corneal ulcers may cause permanent loss of vision, so it is important to contact your optician as soon as possible if you are concerned about the redness in your eyes.

What are the treatment options?

With so many different causes, the treatment options for red eye can vary, ranging from rest, cool compresses over the eyes, over the counter eye drops to antibiotics and even surgery.

If you are showing other symptoms, like eye pain, light sensitivity, swelling or blurry vision you should contact your optician immediately.

At G.T. Harvey and Partners we use the latest technology to get an overall view of your eye health, by photographing the eye we can look at the blood vessels supplying the eye to ensure there are no problems. With a range of contact lenses and treatments available, we are sure to find a solution to your eye care needs. If you are concerned about red eyes or are overdue an eye examination then contact G.T. Harvey and Partners on 0191 232 7615, use our online booking form or drop into our practice.