In clinical practice, a red eye is a common patient presentation. Some can be urgent cases, whereas some cases of red eye are non-threatening, depending on the type and cause of the condition. A few things that your optometrist may ask you upon a consultation, if you present a red eye in clinic, are: onset of the red eye, when did you first notice symptoms, discomfort rating, vision effects, discharge, history of trauma, previous treatments.
A common cause of red eye is conjunctivitis, which can be caused by a bacterial infection, a virus or an allergy. Some symptoms presented in conjunctivitis cases include redness, sandpaper/gritty feeling like something is in the eye, itching, yellow discharge and burning and stinging. In these cases of conjunctivitis, particularly bacterial and viral, it is important that the appropriate infection control measures are undertaken. This includes not touching or rubbing the eye and maintaining meticulous hygiene when it comes to touching shared surfaces. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis cases are highly contagious and may spread to other family members or coworkers through contact with infected surfaces.
When a red eye is associated with a seasonal condition like a pollen allergy (hay fever) or dust allergy, this is termed atopic conjunctivitis. It is important in these cases of atopic conjunctivitis that the offending antigen – being pollen, dust, grass etc – is removed from the surrounding environment.
In all three of these cases of conjunctivitis, relief for red eye will include topical eye drops like Optive (preservative types) and HyloForte and HyloFresh (non-preservative types). In any case, a visit to your optometrist is advised, so that customised management can be administered, where possible.