Patients commonly complain that their eyes are red and irritated. There are a number of reasons for this: dryness, contact lens over-wear, allergies, and viral infections. Patients who have dry eyes should first try artificial tears.
How Can I Treat My Red Eyes?
Depending on the severity of the dryness there are different artificial tears available. These drops range from a watery solution to a more viscous gel, or ointment. If you suffer from a mild irritations, it is generally recommended to use a less viscous solution. If the dryness is more debilitating, a denser solution is more appropriate. An ointment can really affect your vision, so applying the treatment is suggested right before bedtime. Gels usually do make your vision blurry. However, these distortions do subside after a few minutes.
Do You Wear Your Contacts Too Much?
If you over wear your contact lenses you may experience red eyes. In these cases you often need: a new wear schedule; switch in contact lens brand; or use of artificial tears for lubrication. You should temporarily discontinue contact lenses if redness is severe. This will allow your eyes a chance to heal. An eye drop may also be prescribed to help with the healing process. Don’t ignore red eye symptoms especially if you wear contacts! You could end up with a sight-threatening eye condition, like a nasty corneal ulcer.
If your eyes are red, itchy and puffy the most probable cause is allergies. Some common allergens are pollen, dust, facial creams, makeup, pet dander and perfumes. It is important to identify the specific allergen so you can avoid it. If symptoms are localized to only your eyes, ocular antihistamines are suggested. Your local pharmacy will have these drops available over the counter. Your optometrist can also write a prescription for drops, which are stronger. Itchiness can also be relieved through cold compresses or a cold wash. If the allergies are affecting more than just your eyes, an oral antihistamine may be more beneficial.
Viral Infection Got Your Eyes?
A viral eye infection usually starts in one eye and often transfers to the other. This type of infection can be passed between people or transferred by coming into contact with infected inanimate objects and then touching your eyes. Once the virus inhabits your eye, symptoms will develop fairly soon, such as red and watery eyes. Depending on the strain of the virus, the infection can be very mild to extreme. When very mild, the infection is usually self-limiting and generally subsides in a couple of weeks.
Dr. Sharma likes to take a more conservative approach, and recommends artificial tears and eye baths. Good hygiene is crucial so the infection does not transfer to others. In more severe situations sight-threatening conditions like Epidemic Keratoconjuntivitis (EKC) and Herpetic eye disease must be ruled out. Your family eye care doctor will prescribe the necessary medications to prevent any vision loss associated with these potentially devastating conditions.
I think I have allergies?! But I’m not sure…
It may be tempting to self-diagnose and treat your red eyes. But, it is crucial your optometrist rules out other sight threatening causes. If you feel you may have any of the above symptoms, please come in to have your eyes evaluated.