Understanding Red Eye

When the eye turns red, it should not be immediately presumed that the person has “pink eye” or a contagious eye infection. So many times, a student is pulled out of school for fear of a contagious eye infection whenever his/her eye turns red.

Some of the causes of a red eye include dry eye, allergic conjunctivitis – being seasonal, severe glaucoma, internal inflammation of the eye, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids), bacterial conjunctivitis, and viral conjunctivitis. A red eye tends to usually be irritating and at times light sensitive. Whenever you realize that your eye is red, you must seek attention from an ophthalmologist as soon as possible for fear that you may have a bacterial corneal ulcer or acute glaucoma.

The treatment for most of the causes of a red eye is very simple. Dry eye is treated with artificial tears. Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with anti-allergy eyedrops. Glaucoma is a different beast and is treated with special prescription medication and surgery. Internal inflammation of the eye is treated with prescription steroid eyedrops. Blepharitis is treated with good eyelid hygiene and the use of baby shampoo along the eyelids and eyelashes. Bacterial conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers may be caused by overuse of contact lenses, and are treated with prescription antibiotic eyedrops. Viral conjunctivitis may be caused by the herpes virus, and is treated with prescription anti-viral eyedrops.

Finally, “contagious pink eye” is caused by a viral infection, where you may experience eye pain and severe light sensitivity. You may be contagious for up to two weeks, and the treatment usually is time and observation, with occasional use of steroid eyedrops.

Therefore, since there are so many causes of a red eye, it is best to seek care by your ophthalmologist as soon as possible, because you never know what the cause may be, and whether you are contagious or not.