5 Medical Conditions That Cause Red Eyes

Jun 02, 2023
5 Medical Conditions That Cause Red Eyes
Pulling an all-nighter or hanging out at the beach can leave you red-eyed, but if the problem persists, it may be a sign of a medical condition. Here are five health problems that redden the whites of your eyes.

Your eyes are highly sophisticated but extremely sensitive. They can perform amazing feats of visual acuity and adapt to multiple lighting conditions and distances. But ask them to stay open all night or spend a day at the beach, and they turn red.

That rosy tinge to your eye whites means they’re irritated, but the blush typically fades with rest. If the redness persists, it may indicate a medical condition, and there are several that claim red eyes as a symptom.

Dr. Maher Fanous and our North Florida Eye Center team see red eyes all the time and help our patients throughout Gainesville and Chiefland get to the bottom of the problem. Here, we highlight the top five health issues that cause red eyes and the treatments that help.

1. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is when your conjunctiva becomes inflamed — that’s the thin layer of tissue covering the white part of your eye and the inner eyelid. Viral or bacterial infections are the most common culprit behind pink eye, but an allergic reaction can also trigger it. Either way, you end up with red, itchy, and teary eyes and join about 6 million fellow Americans who get it every year.

2. Allergies

Allergies are another common cause of red eyes. Allergic reactions to irritants such as pollen, pet dander, or dust make your eyes itchy, watery, and red. Around 70% of Americans who suffer from allergic rhinitis end up with a case of allergic conjunctivitis — allergy-related pink eye. 

It’s usually worse in springtime, but seasonal allergies seem to last all year in Florida, so if you’re prone to allergies, you’re no stranger to red eyes.

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the umbrella term for several eye conditions that damage your optic nerve. At the very least, glaucoma reddens your eyes, but if it progresses without treatment, it can lead to vision loss or blindness. And since glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, it’s crucial that you get regular screenings and report persistent eye redness to Dr. Fanous.

4. Eye injuries

One of the most obvious causes of eye redness is trauma. Eye injuries, like a scratch or a foreign object in your eye, not only redden your eyes but cause significant pain and potential long-term damage. Every year, nearly 2 million Americans suffer from eye injuries, and protective eyewear can prevent almost all of them.

5. Corneal ulcers

Corneal ulcers are open sores on the outer layer of the cornea, the clear tissue that covers the front of your eye. These ulcers can stem from bacterial or fungal infections and lead to redness, pain, and sensitivity to light. Although not as common as glaucoma — corneal ulcers affect about 30,000-75,000 people in the US annually — these eye sores can lead to serious vision loss and blindness. 

Eye health and safety

You can keep your eyes bright, white, and healthy by practicing good hygiene and safety habits. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes with dirty hands
  • Wear protective goggles or glasses when working with dangerous equipment or chemicals
  • Take regular breaks when working on a computer or reading to prevent eye strain

Regular eye exams and eye health screenings can also keep you in the clear. We can help you determine the best schedule of exams for your age, health, and risk factors.

Treatment for red eyes

Treatment for red eyes depends on the underlying cause. For example, we treat bacterial conjunctivitis with medicated eye drops and allergic reactions with antihistamines. 

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat conditions such as glaucoma. 

The bottom line is that multiple medical conditions and environmental factors can cause red eyes, and you can prevent many of them by maintaining good hygiene and safety practices. Most importantly, call us or schedule an appointment online at North Florida Eye Center if the redness persists, as it may be a sign of a more serious condition.