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Eye redness is one of those ambiguous symptoms that can signify a wide range of conditions, from a minor nuisance — such as smoke — to a serious eye disease, such as glaucoma. So how do you know when having red eyes is just a minor thing and when you should contact your eye doctor? A good rule of thumb is if something just doesn’t seem right to you, it probably isn’t.

Keeping open the line of communication with your doctor can help small things from becoming big ones. In this blog, the highly skilled providers at Tayani Institute share five causes of red eyes.

What causes red eyes?

Red eyes is the term used to describe an eye condition in which the small blood vessels of the eyes get inflamed and turn red or pinkish in color. Sometimes we refer to the affected eyes as being bloodshot.

This can happen in one or both eyes, and in some cases, other symptoms, such as blurry vision, eye pain, tearing, or itching can occur along with the eye discoloration. Here are some of the most common causes of red eyes:

1.  Environmental conditions, such as smoke and allergies

If you’re among the more than 50 million Americans who experience allergies each year, you know that having red eyes can indicate that you’ve come in contact with an outdoor irritant, such as chlorine from a swimming pool or pollen from the air. However, you may also be affected by indoor irritants, such as pet dander, dust mites, or cigarette smoke.

2.  Contact-lens issues or foreign objects

Regardless of how long you’ve been wearing contact lenses, complications with the solutions or lenses may lead to red eyes. Similarly, foreign objects, such as eyelashes, sand, or makeup may cause irritation if they get in your eyes. Oftentimes, you can gently flush out the irritant by using warm water or an over-the-counter eyewash. But, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before getting started.

3. Dry eyes

A common tear-production condition called dry eyes is another cause of red eyes. Many Americans suffer from dry eyes in the winter months due to the drier air, although dry eyes can happen throughout the year. If you suffer from this, artificial tears or anti-inflammatory medications may be able to help you.

 4.  Eye infections

Red eyes can indicate that you may have an eye infection. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year Americans of all ages make an estimated 930,000 visits to doctor’s offices and clinics as well as 58,000 emergency room visits due to eye infections.

Some of the more common eye infections include the following:

  • Pink eye, which is inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva
  • Keratitis, which is an infection of the cornea
  • A sty, which is a bump on the outside edge of the eyelid

These conditions are treatable, but it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid any potential complications.

5. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that is characterized by increased pressure within the eyes, which damages the optic nerve. It’s one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States and throughout the world. There are different types of glaucoma. The most common form is called open-angle glaucoma, and it typically develops slowly over the course of years.

However, a more rare form known as acute or angle-closure glaucoma comes on quickly, transpiring over the course of hours. Symptoms include bright red eyes, severe pain, nausea, and vision loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your eye doctor immediately for an emergency appointment or visit the nearest emergency room.

If you’re suffering from red eyes, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with the Tayani Institute today.