As Richmonders face one of the worst allergy seasons on record due to a mild winter and warmer than usual spring, many individuals are red-eyed and complaining about allergies. In fact, as many as thirty-five million Americans suffer from hay fever, and one of its primary symptoms is red eyes.
Eye allergies occur when the eyes are irritated by an allergen and react by producing histamine. Some indicators that your red eyes are a result of allergies are: itching, tearing, and swollen eyelids.Over-the-counter artificial tears may bring some relief, and wearing sunglasses or eyeglasses while outside may help reduce the amount of pollen entering your eyes.
Now, as much as we all love to point to seasonal allergies and regional allergens, there are other culprits. Let’s take a look at some frequent causes of red eyes.
Viral infections are the most common cause of conjunctivitis. Indicators that you are suffering from viral conjunctivitis include increased tearing, sensitivity to lights, blurred vision, and symptoms that start in one eye and spread to the other. The virus is the same virus associated with the common cold. Conjunctivitis can last for one to two weeks and will disappear on its own. However, cool compresses applied to closed eyes can bring temporary relief.
Bacterial infections often involve a significant amount of yellow-green discharge from the eyes, or a crust surrounding your eyelids upon awakening. Antibiotic eye drops prescribed by your eye doctor are typically used to treat bacterial conjunctivitis.
A subconjunctival hemorrhage is similar to a bruise of the eye. It usually appears as a single, concentrated spot of red on the white of the eye. It is a common occurrence, and is usually no cause for alarm. It is almost always harmless and will heal on its own. It does not affect vision and generally does not cause pain.
If your eyes do not produce enough tears to stay healthy and comfortable, you may be suffering from dry eye. Symptoms of dry eye include redness, burning, foreign body sensation, or increased tearing. The most common treatment is use of artificial tears, though there are some additional options that you could discuss with your eye doctor.
Improper wear of contact lenses may also lead to red eyes. If you have a history of wearing contacts overnight or using extended-wear contacts for extended periods of time, you might experience mild pain or blurred vision. Be sure to allow your eyes adequate breaks from contact lens use by wearing your glasses occasionally. Never wear your contacts while swimming.
Many of these causes have overlapping signs and symptoms. If you have a red eye and are experiencing pain, impaired vision, extreme sensitivity to light, or redness that last longer than two days, you should call your eye doctor immediately.