Every optometrist routinely sees patients scheduled for “red eye” visits. While a “red eye” is a term that is used to describe red, irritated, bloodshot eyes, there is a wide variety of conditions that can cause the problem. Among the conditions that can cause red eyes: viral infection, bacterial infection, allergy, dry eyes, contact lens overwear, eye injury, corneal ulcer, ocular herpes, uveitis, and environmental irritation.
In trying to determine the cause of a red eye, it is best that an eye care professional make the correct diagnosis and treatment plan versus a pediatrician, general practitioner, or yourself. These medical professionals have their expertise and knowledge base, but it is not in eye care. Just as I am not the person to see regarding a broken leg, your primary care physician does not have the necessary equipment and knowledge base to make an accurate diagnosis regarding most eye conditions. Treating over the phone, self-diagnosing, or being diagnosed by a family member or friend can sometimes cause more harm than good.
It is common to find patients who treat their eye conditions whether it is a red eye or allergies with over-the-counter medications or prescription medications that were originally given to a friend or other family member. While this is the easiest route to go for treatment, it can also be a poor decision in the long-run. Regardless of the situation, it is always best to have an eye care professional diagnose and treat the eye condition.
One of the most popular OTC drops that patient’s often use to help with their red eye problem is Visine. Visine is a vasoconstrictor, which means that it makes the blood vessels in the eye smaller so the eye does not look as red. The problem with Visine is that while is temporarily helps with the appearance of redness, it does not solve the problem of why the eye is red in the first place. In addition, it has a high rate of dependency and rebound effect, meaning that over time more and more drops are needed to achieve the same goal and when the drops are stopped, the redness returns worse than before treatment. For this reason it is critical to determine why the eyes are red and irritated in the first place to solve the problem, rather than masking the problem with vasoconstrictors like Visine.
Using drops from a prior eye condition or using a prescribed drop from another family member because “your eye looks just like mine did and this drop worked for me” is not smart and could be potentially dangerous. For example, red eyes caused by uveitis require frequent use of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids. But a red eye caused by herpetic keratitis can be made significantly worse by the same corticosteroid medication.
Regardless if you think your red eye is simple or complex, give our office a call so we can help you.