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Red Eye

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Red eye is a often experienced by people and is a common presentation in the emergency department. However, in most cases, the cause is quite trivial and requires primary treatment. If you are worried about red eye and its causes, the following paragraphs will cover all your doubts.

What is red eye?

Red eye is a non-specific term and is also commonly called as bloodshot eyes. Medically, it is called as  subconjunctival hemorrhage or hyposphagma. It is bleeding that happens under the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva has may fragile blood vessels that can easily be ruptured. When they rupture, it leads to blood leaking into the space present between the sclera and conjunctiva.

One never realizes they have developed a red eye, till they see themselves in a mirror or someone tells them about their bloodshot eye or eyes. The white of the eye turns bright red due to the bleeding. As the blood cannot get absorbed by the conjunctiva, the redness will persist for about 1 to 2 weeks. However, this is quite a harmless condition.

Symptoms of red eye

The bloodshot eyes are the main and obvious symptom of red eye. There is no discharge or change in vision due to blood eye. One may only feel a bit scratchy on the eye surface.

Causes of red eye

There are a number of causes that can lead to red eye. These causes include:

  • Coughing continuously and violently
  • Whooping cough
  • A powerful sneeze
  • Heavy weight lifting
  • Vomiting
  • Rubbing the eye very roughly
  • Severe eye infection
  • Eye trauma by a foreign object injuring the eye

Some serious causes that lead to red eye include:

  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Use of blood-thinning medications like warfarin and aspirin
  • Base of skull fracture, when there is no posterior hemorrhage seen
  • Leptospirosis
  • Increase in venous pressure under strain or when choking
  • Traumatic asphyxia syndrome

Diagnosis of red eye

The ophthalmologist will have a look at the eye and diagnose the condition. There are no other tests required to confirm red eye. However, he may ask you to check your blood pressure or carry out a routine blood test to check for any underlying causes.

Treatment of red eye

There is no treatment required for red eye. This is usually a self-limiting condition and in the absence of any other trauma or infection, no treatment is given. Eye drops or artificial tears may be prescribed to be used 4 to 6 times a day.

Red eye is not a serious condition in the majority of the cases. Other than having bloodshot eyes for a few weeks, there is no other complication

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 07, 2015

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