May 01, 2017

Common causes of eye redness

Beyond antibiotic eyedrops

Common causes of eye redness

You noticed that you had another case of pink eye when your eye felt slightly crusty in the morning, and when you looked in the mirror, you noticed that the same eye was bloodshot. It's annoying, but at least antibiotic eyedrops will clear it up, right?

You might want to rethink that plan. For starters, pink eye (conjunctivitis) usually isn't caused by a bacterial infection. In older adults, the most common cause is a viral infection. In fact, viruses cause up to 80 percent of conjunctivitis cases. Using antibiotic eyedrops does nothing to treat viral conjunctivitis, and side effects from the eyedrops may occur. In addition, eye redness can occur for numerous reasons that don't involve infection.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of various forms of conjunctivitis can help you to seek out appropriate care that will guide your expectations of appropriate treatment.

Eye whites

When you see the white of your eye, you're looking at the sclera — a tough leathery tissue that forms the spherical shape of the eyeball and the conjunctiva that overlays it.

The conjunctiva is a thin, moist transparent membrane. The conjunctiva also folds back to line the inside of your eyelid. The role of the conjunctiva is to protect and lubricate the eye.

The fairly sudden start of pink or red coloration over the sclera may signal the start of a bout of conjunctiva inflammation. The inflammation enlarges small blood vessels of the conjunctiva, which gives it the reddish or pinkish...