What do a long day at the office, a night on the town, and an afternoon of gardening have in common? They can all have you seeing red when you look in the mirror, that is.
Eye redness can be caused by a lot of things. A red eye may simply be dry or slightly irritated, or it may be a sign of chronic or acute conjunctivitis.
In the case of acute glaucoma, which most often occurs in children but can also occur in adults, there tend to be red eyes in conjunction with dilated pupils, blurring of vision, and pain.
You can get red eyes from certain diseases such as chronic glaucoma, blood diseases, gout, thyroid diseases, and even a tumor. You can also get red eyes from iritis, an inflammatory disease which is usually inside the eye. It is often associated with discomfort and increases pressure within the eye as well. And it can be very serious if not treated with cortisone.
For these reasons, the experts recommend that you have your eyes checked if the redness persists for more than a couple of days, if there is any pain or change in vision associated with redness, if your eyes suddenly become sensitive to light, if you notice redness or blood over the pupil (the dark center of the eye), or if you have any discharge from one or both eyes.
For red eyes that are caused by everyday irritants such as long hours in contact lenses, allergies, fatigue, air pollution, or dry air – there are some things you can do to help get the red out and relieve irritation.
Sometimes, the continual use of over the counter eye drops can actually cause red eyes, rather than alleviating them. Many of the over the counter eye drops have preservatives in them, which can further irritate sensitive eyes. And certain decongestant eye drops that claim to whiten your eye are pretty mild but can cause a rebound effect similar to the kind you can get with nose drops. What happens is that the decongestant in these fluids causes the little arteries to shrink up, making the eye look whiter. This works well at first, but with continued use of these drops, the arteries can become dependent on the chemical in order to stay shrunken. So when the chemical wears off, the arteries dilate again and make the eye appear red.
While using over the counter eye drops for a few days to soothe and whiten eyes is generally okay, using them regularly can be counterproductive. Be sure to read the label for instructions on proper use.
1. Give your eyes a “lube” job
Lubricating eye drops such as vision can help to relieve some of the dryness and make the eye feel better. But do not use them any longer than a few days at most. Eye drops and artificial tears can be especially helpful to older individuals. Older people don’t produce as many tears as they should, which can make the eyes red.
2. Apply cool or warm compresses
It doesn’t really matter what kind you use. Whatever feels best to you is fine. A washcloth soaked in cool water feels good, as does simply cupping cool water in your hand and holding it under the eye.
3. Under an over the counter antihistamine
If your red, itchy eyes are the result of an allergy, such as hay fever, then treating the allergy itself will tend to help your eyes as well.
4. Get a good night’s rest
This is often enough to clear up red eyes that are the result of too little sleep. If 40 winks don’t perk up your peepers, however, then the redness is probably the result of some other cause and should be checked out by a doctor.
5. Wear goggles in the pool
If you plan to take a splash in the pool, protect your eyes from the irritating effects of chlorine with a pair of well-fitting swimming goggles.
6. Use eye drops in the air
The air in the cabin of an airplane is extremely dry and contains less oxygen, both of which can irritate and redden the eyes. Over the counter lubricating drops add moisture to the eye, which helps to keep them from getting dried out.
7. Sport shades
Wear a pair of good quality sunglasses whenever you go out during the day. This is especially important if you’ll be skiing, boating, or sunbathing on a bright day. Snow blindness and ultraviolet burns can result when the eyes are unprotected in the sunlight. And both conditions can be extremely painful.