What is red eye?
Red eye, also known as conjunctivitis is a condition characterised by infection and inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that covers the eyeball and the underneath of your eyelid. When it becomes irritated, it can often turn the eye red in colour or it will begin to appear slightly red and inflamed, this is why it is commonly referred to as red eye.
Red eye or conjunctivitis can be caused by several different factors, some of these causes of red eye include bacterial infection, a virus or an allergy. Some of the irritating conjunctivitis symptoms include redness, grittiness, itching, sticky yellow discharge, tearing up and the feeling of burning and stinging in the eye.
Red eye or conjunctivitis caused by viral or bacterial infections can be highly contagious and so it is important to treat the area as soon as possible. If in one eye, it can very easily spread to the other when the right precautions are not taken.
Red eye is not a serious problem in adults but if it occurs with children, especially in babies, it is advised to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
What are the causes of conjunctivitis?
Viruses and bacteria are the most common causes for red eye or conjunctivitis. When red eye is caused by viruses, it is called viral conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis is usually associated with an infection of the upper respiratory tract. Viral conjunctivitis can be caused by a wide range of different viruses, the most problematic being the HSV virus (Herpes Simplex).
Bacterial conjunctivitis is incredibly contagious, this can be caused from bacteria / foreign matter entering the eye through rubbing your eyes with your hands and fingers or from airborne particles and shared communal places such as swimming pools.
Conjunctivitis or red eye caused by allergies, which is referred to as allergic conjunctivitis, occurs through the eye coming into contact with allergens such as pollen, animal fur, dust or chemicals. When contact is made, this can trigger an allergic reaction and you may start to notice the irritating symptoms of red eye or conjunctivitis.
What are symptoms of red eye / symptoms of conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis can appear as one of three types; viral, bacterial or allergy. The symptoms of the condition will vary depending on the cause of the red eye or conjunctivitis.
One of the most common signs or symptoms of red eye or conjunctivitis is a red colour or redness in the eye. However, this isn’t always the case. Before the affected eye has turned red or red in colour there are a many other symptoms you may be able to notice which would signify the onset of red eye or conjunctivitis.
A common sign or observation linked to red eye or conjunctivitis is the sensation of a sandy or gritty feeling in the eye, quite similar to the feeling of a foreign object stuck on the surface. This is then followed by eye irritation, itching and tearing up, making you want to rub your eye frequently.
Another common sign or observation linked to red eye or conjunctivitis may be a very sticky yellow discharge which glues your eye together and can make them dry shut and crusty. This is usually a sign of viral conjunctivitis. As the infection progresses the infected eye can become red or pink in colour and your eye may become itchy, very watery and sensitive to light. At times you may experience pain and pressure on the eyeball which is usually noticeable when standing up.
It is important not to touch, rub or pick at this area as this will irritate it further and increase the risk of spreading.
What is the best red eye treatment / conjunctivitis treatment?
The best red eye treatment / conjunctivitis treatment depends on the type of red eye / conjunctivitis. It is helpful to see an eyecare or medical professional who will examine the eye to ascertain the cause behind the infection and prescribe the right type of treatment for it. At times, they may want to take a sample of the sticky secretion on the eye to find out more information on the type of infection.
Conjunctivitis treatment or red eye treatment for a bacterial infection is usually given in the form of antibiotic eye drops and ointments. Sometimes, oral antibiotics may also be prescribed for treating a severe infection.
The thick, sticky secretion in the eye can often glue the eye together when sleeping. It is advised to clean the eye regularly with a soft, damp cotton ball covered in a saltwater solution.
To maintain red eye treatment, continue to use cold compresses on the eye. There are other great red eye remedies and red eye cures available in the pharmacy such as eye washes and antibacterial artificial tears.
This condition, usually resolves on its own after a few days with the right care. Especially if it is caused by viruses. Nevertheless, it is best to visit an optometrist for a second opinion and peace of mind. The most important thing to remember when experiencing this problem is to keep your hands and face clean, and avoid touching or rubbing the area as much as possible.
If you are experiencing symptoms of red eye / conjunctivitis, please make an appointment with your local Eye Concepts optometrist immediately.