Redness in the eye occurs when the small blood vessels present on the surface of the eye are inflamed and clogged with blood. This can occur due to an insufficient supply of oxygen to the cornea or the tissues covering the eye. Bloodshot eyes are usually not something to be concerned about and will usually clear without any medical treatment. However, when a red eye is painful or coupled with impaired or blurry vision, it may be an indication of a serious medical problem. Let’s know more about the causes of red eyes:
1. Environmental Causes
There are several environmental causes of eye redness, like:
• Airborne allergens
• Overexposure to sunlight
• Air pollution
• Dry air
• Airborne fumes
• Chemical exposure (chlorine in swimming pools)
2. Eye Infections
An eye infection is one of the more serious reasons for red eyes. Infections can occur in different parts of the eye. It is also often accompanied by symptoms like pain, discharge, or changes in vision. Infections causing eye redness may include:
• Blepharitis (inflammation of the follicles around the eyelashes)
• Conjunctivitis or pink eye (inflammation of the membrane that covers the eye)
• Corneal ulcers (ulcers covering the eye)
• Uveitis (inflammation of the uvea)
Also, eye infections usually just cause a bloodshot eye on one side or a blood blotch on one of the eyes.
Conjunctivitis is one of the most common reasons behind red eyes. Also known as pink eye, it is generally caused due to viruses that spread by hands. It involves swelling and irritation of the conjunctiva – a thin transparent membrane that outlines the eyelid and loops back covering the white part of the eye. It can irritate the blood vessels and cause them to swell up. Due to the inflammation, the whites of the eyes appear to be a bit pink or reddish. Conjunctivitis is quite common among school children and is also very contagious. However, conjunctivitis caused by allergies or irritants is not contagious. Wearing contact lenses for a longer period of time or not properly cleaning them can also result in conjunctivitis.
4. Corneal ulcer
A corneal ulcer is another common reason for a red spot in the eye. It is an open sore on the cornea that results in the redness of the eyes. This happens because the cornea is avascular which means that it does not have any blood vessels in it. It gets the majority of its oxygen and nutrients supply from the tears and the outer atmosphere. And with a corneal infection, the surrounding blood vessels may get enlarged. A corneal ulcer is usually caused by bacterial infections and often appears after an eye injury, trauma, or any type of damage. Symptoms of a corneal ulcer may include soreness of the eyes, discharge, reduced vision, a white spot on the cornea, and sensitivity to light.
5. Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye or dry eye syndrome is a condition that occurs when an individual does not produce enough tears that can lubricate and nourish their eyes properly. Dry eye syndrome can be caused due to a medical condition, hormonal changes, and some medication. Chronic dry eye can result in an inflamed and irritated surface of the eye which can even give the eyes a red appearance. Although dry eye is incurable, in mild cases, one can use over-the-counter medications like artificial tears, gels, and ointments. Depending on the severity of the condition treatment methods may include prescription eye drops or even surgery.
Some of the symptoms of dry eye syndrome are:
• Burning sensation in the eyes
• Pain and redness in the eye
• Discomfort while wearing contact lenses
• Blurry vision
• Eye fatigue
• Eye discharge
• Discomfort while watching television or reading
6. Subconjunctival Haemorrhage
This is one of the most common reasons for sudden red eye in the elderly. While subconjunctival haemorrhage can occur at any age, it is quite common in seniors. The conjunctiva contains various blood vessels and capillaries which can break and cause blood to leak into the area between the conjunctiva and the white of the eye. The slight bleeding under the eye’s outer membrane causes red spots on the white on the eye. Subconjunctival haemorrhages generally occur due to injury or trauma to the eye. Since eyes are very sensitive, even rubbing too hard can cause a subconjunctival haemorrhage.
Also, coughing, sneezing, and straining can cause a subconjunctival haemorrhage. Other than this, people who are suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, or under certain have a higher chance of getting subconjunctival haemorrhages. Since this condition is quite common in the elderly, it is important one avails home nursing services to ensure proper care and treatment especially for people with blurred vision.
7. Digital Eye Strain
Digital eye strain and computer vision syndrome are vision-related problems caused by prolonged use of the computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone. Words and images on a screen are formed by combinations of tiny points of light (pixels). This makes it quite difficult for our eyes to focus on them and instead, make them want to drift to a reduced level of focus. This is known as the "resting point of accommodation" or RPA. This causes our eyes to strain in order to regain focus and owing to this continuous moving of the eyes, the muscles become tired. Some of the factors that may increase the risk of developing digital eye strain are - poor lighting, glare on the screen, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture, and uncorrected vision problems.
There are a lot of causes and factors that may result in eye redness, like:
• Trauma or injury to the eye
• Acute glaucoma (a rapid increase in eye pressure resulting in pain or discomfort)
• Overuse of contact lenses
• Scleritis – inflammation of the white part of the eye, called
• Eyelid styes
• Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Tips to Prevent Eye Redness
There are a few ways through which one can prevent red, bloodshot eyes, like:
• One should wash their hands frequently to avoid an eye infection
• It is important to remove makeup before going to bed
• One should not wear contact lenses longer than recommended and should also clean them on a regular basis.
• One should avoid activities and substances that may cause strain to the eyes.
• Wash eyes frequently with cold water to rinse out all sorts of irritants.
Treatment and Diagnosis
An individual should seek medical attention if they experience discomfort or blurred vision along with redness of eyes. While home remedies such as compresses and artificial tears can help ease the red eyes symptoms. And since there are a number of reasons for the redness of the eye, seeking medical can help you pinpoint the exact cause of the issue. Moreover, it can also help in developing a treatment plan for the same. Usually, most of the conditions are easily treatable. And if caught early they would not pose any serious complication or cause any permanent long-term damage. Some of the more serious medical conditions that may cause redness of the eyes include leukaemia, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and sarcoidosis. To tackle all this, eye redness treatments may include antibiotics, eye drops, creams, and oral medications.
Redness of the eyes can be caused due to a number of reasons. And while red eyes in the elderly are quite common, it can happen at any age. We hope that this information will help you get an idea of the different causes of red, bloodshot eyes.
Here at Emoha, we serve our elders with pride, and that includes providing a range of eldercare services, useful information, and community engagement. For us, it is always #EldersFirst