Red eyes: what are the causes and treatments?
Do you have red eyes and eye discomfort? There are several reasons your eyes might be red: fatigue, stress, allergies, fragile cornea, dry eyes… This phenomenon is quite disabling, but solutions exist to remedy it. Let’s discover together the 5 main causes of red eyes, as well as the different treatments available.
1. Red eyes caused by allergens
As allergy sufferers know, in addition to symptoms such as sneezing, congestion and runny nose, they may also experience itchy, watery, red eyes and swollen eyelids. The most common airborne allergens are pollen, mold, dust and animal dander (cat, dog, horse hair etc.). However, allergic reactions can also be caused by certain cosmetics or eye drops. This can be the case with artificial tears used to treat dry eyes, which contain preservatives.
What are the solutions to eye allergies?
If you suffer from red eyes due to allergies, it’s best to stay away from anything that triggers these uncomfortable symptoms. On days with high pollen counts, stay indoors instead. If you have an air conditioner, use it to filter the air in your home. This usually blocks dander, pollutants and allergens effectively. If you must go outside, wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen and other grasses, and close the car windows when driving.
2. Glaucoma, another cause of red eye
Glaucoma is a pathology caused by a damage of the optic nerve, which leads to a high pressure inside the eye. Our eyes continuously produce a liquid called aqueous humor. This fluid is used to nourish the cells inside the eye, and is then drained to the outside through channels located around the iris. However, sometimes these channels are no longer operational, and blockages can occur. The aqueous humor then has difficulty in evacuating, and creates this pressure on the optic nerve: the cells of the back of the eye are damaged. Glaucoma is not to be taken lightly: in the long term, this constant and continuous pressure can heavily damage the optic nerve, and cause a gradual and irreversible loss of sight. There are two types of glaucoma:
-Open angle glaucoma: This is a chronic disease representing nearly 90% of glaucoma cases. It develops slowly by creating a slow and progressive obstruction of the drainage channels, without really showing any signs.
-Closed angle glaucoma or acute glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is sudden, quite painful and represents a real emergency. It is often difficult to determine the exact cause. However, it can occur in the case of an ocular trauma such as a blow to the face, linked to health problems such as diabetes or even taking too many medications.
What to do if you suspect you have glaucoma?
If you experience symptoms of headaches, sudden blurred vision, eye pain or notice that one of your eyes is red, make an appointment with your VU optometrist, and together we will perform a tonometry test to check your intraocular pressure. We will also take visual field measurements. Depending on the results, further tests may be performed.
Solutions for open angle glaucoma
If you have open-angle glaucoma, unfortunately there is no cure. However, there are medications available, in addition to the existing antiglaucoma drugs. In addition, surgical interventions are possible to reverse the chronicity of the disease. However, long-term treatment is necessary to preserve your vision.
Solutions for acute or angle closure glaucoma
If you are affected by this type of glaucoma, your optician will refer you to an ophthalmologist as a preventive measure. He or she may prescribe drops to relieve some of the pressure on the optic nerve. Then, other procedures can be considered, such as a small laser intervention to facilitate the flow of aqueous humor.
3. Subconjunctival hemorrhage, an accumulation of blood in the conjunctiva
Subconjunctival hemorrhage usually results from a fairly minor trauma to the surface of the eye. It is a small accumulation of blood under the conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the front of the eyes). This can be caused by too much physical effort, vomiting, sneezing, rubbing the eyes or a coughing fit. The vessels are fragile at the base, and a shock can then create benign lesions.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage: what treatment?
Red eyes due to a subconjunctival hemorrhage should not alarm you. It usually disappears after a couple of weeks, without any pain or impact on vision. However, if it occurs frequently, we recommend that you have an eye exam to detect a possible complication.
4. Dry Eye Syndrome
At VU, we know a thing or two about dry eyes. In fact, it’s our area of expertise, and we know how disabling and uncomfortable it can be on a daily basis. When they are healthy, your eyes produce a continuous tear film, which acts as a protective barrier against external elements. It also ensures that your eyes always stay moist. However, for some people, these tears are not sufficiently abundant, or evaporate too quickly. This lack of lubrication can lead to stinging, irritation, red itchy eyes, blurred vision and sensitivity to light.
Causes of dry eyes
Dry eye is a condition that affects a large proportion of the population. For some people, it results from a low production of tears, caused by an anomaly of the lacrimal gland, a dysfunction of the Meibomius glands, a hormonal disorder or even the taking of medication (contraceptive, antidepressant). For others, tears evaporate too quickly due to inflammation of the eyelids or unsuitable contact lenses. Finally, a strong increase in dry eye syndrome has been observed due to fatigue, telecommuting or wearing a mask.
What treatments work for dry eye?
Once you have completed your eye exam with a qualified optometrist, you may need eye drops, or you may need non-invasive procedures. At VU, we are equipped with the best technologies to combat dry eye disease.
Lubricating solutions, such as I-DROP® Visco-Adaptive Eye Drops, are a great way to combat dry eye. They provide long-lasting relief and comfort, and contain no preservatives. They also require little daily application and provide superior, long-lasting results and lubrication.
More advanced treatments in clinics
If drops are no longer sufficient, there are more advanced treatments offered by certain clinics. Your VU optometrist offers the following
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): Intense Pulsed Light for dry eyes is very innovative, and is offered by very few professionals. VU Optometrist is one of the few clinics offering this technology. The unique gel-free, self-calibrating IPL treatment for dry eyes stimulates the Meibomius glands, thus preventing early evaporation of the tear film. The 15-minute treatment is performed in only 3 to 4 sessions, spaced out between 2 weeks and 1 month. Totally painless, you do not need to be accompanied. This unique technology has improved the comfort of vision for over 80% of patients to date.
- The LLLT mask (Low Level Laser Therapy): this mask is used to treat the dysfunction of the Meibomius glands. These glands are responsible for the production of a lipidic substance that limits the evaporation of the tear film. For this type of treatment, red light at a specific near wavelength is used. It produces a reaction in the cells called biochemical photoreaction. The procedure increases the speed and quality of healing of the injured tissue. This treatment lasts 15 minutes, is completely painless and does not require an attendant.
5. Contact lenses
Have you had red eyes since you started wearing contact lenses? These medical devices are supposed to support our eyesight, but they can cause real discomfort. How can you stop getting red eyes when you wear contacts?
Remove your lenses when you go to bed
This may sound obvious, but many people forget about them and spend the night with them in. The longer you wear your lenses, the dirtier and less permeable they become. If they are no longer breathable, lenses are more likely to trap dirt and affect your eyes.
Check the quality of your contact lenses
Some lenses can tear or become damaged. The eye is then directly impacted, as it is rubbed against the cornea. This can cause discomfort, redness and even infection in the worst case. It is therefore necessary to inspect the condition of your contact lenses every morning.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions
Each contact lens may have its own specificities. We recommend that you read the instructions carefully before wearing them to avoid red eyes.
Choose lenses that fit your eyes
Often, lenses are too tight or too small. You don’t tend to notice it right away. However, they can obstruct the normal flow of tears and even reduce the amount of oxygen delivered to the cornea. These symptoms can be detected during an eye exam.
Red eye syndrome can be caused by many things: allergies, fatigue, glaucoma, shock, contact lenses, dry eyes… If you notice that your eyes are red, itchy, stinging and dry, don’t hesitate to consult an optometrist for an eye exam. See your doctor if the redness in your eyes persists for several days. Together, we will help you find the best solutions. Long live your sight!