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Red Eye

The common causes of red eye in adults are:

Infective conjunctivitis
Allergic conjunctivitis
Blepharitis and dry eye
Corneal inflammation
Episcleritis
Iritis

Infective conjunctivitis (see children’s eye conditions)

Just like in children these are common infections which usually will resolve on their own. Viral infections tend to stay longer in one eye and not respond to antibiotics. Bacterial infections tend to involve both eyes early. Conjunctivitis is not painful (more irritable) and does not affect vision. Even bacterial infections will resolve without treatment though chloramphenicol/chloromycetin is frequently used. If it is not settling, becoming painful or affecting vision, see your doctor.

Allergic conjunctivitis (see children’s eye conditions)

Allergic ConjunctivitisMore common in children and adolescents, the redness tends to be in both eyes and associated with itching. It may be seasonal but not always. It is difficult to avoid the cause (pollen or dust) but it usually responds to antihistamine tablets and drops. If drops for infective conjunctivitis have made your eyes worse you may be allergic to the drops.

Blepharitis and dry eye

Blepharitis and Dry EyeDry eye and blepharitis often go together. Blepharitis means inflamed eyelids and is usually a longstanding problem. See dry eye section for more details.
It usually but not always involves both eyes. If the blepharitis is prolonged the white of the eye often goes red as well. See inflammation section under dry eyes for treatment.

Foreign bodies on the cornea (from gardening, DIY etc) are probably the most common cause. They are easily removed but A&E are better able to do this than your GP. Be sure to tell them if you were hammering or chiselling when it occurred as the metal fragments can actually enter the eye and this is much more serious.

Cold sore infections (herpes) can cause a corneal ulcer that is frequently recurrent.

Corneal UlcerContact lens wearers are more prone to corneal ulcers. If you wear contact lenses and develop a sore red eye you should take the lenses out and see your optician. If things are not improving you should see an ophthalmologist as a matter of urgency.

 

 

 

 

Episcleritis

Example of episcleritisHere one sector of the eye goes red with the remainder staying white. It’s usually not painful and will resolve on its own. If not see your GP.

 

 

Iritis

This is rare but serious. The inside of the eye becomes inflamed. The eye feels sore, turns red and becomes very sensitive to light. It is easily treated but best if caught early. Optometrists are better at spotting this condition than GP’s.

In summary most red eyes will resolve on their own or with simple treatment. If the symptoms persist or the pain increases and vision deteriorates, seek professional help.

General eye problems

Adult Squint
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AMD
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Presbyopia and normal ageing of the eye
/
Cataract
/
Cataract FAQ's
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Refractive surgery of the lens and correction of presbyopia
/
Dry eye
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Glaucoma
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Retinal Vein Occlusion

 

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