Also called conjunctivitis — is inflammation of the thin, clear covering of the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Although the conjunctiva is transparent, it contains blood vessels that overlay the sclera of the eye. Anything that triggers inflammation will cause these conjunctival blood vessels to dilate. This is what causes red, bloodshot eyes.
What causes red eye
The primary types of conjunctivitis, based on cause, are:
Viral conjunctivitis. Caused by a virus, like the common cold. This type of pink eye is very contagious, but usually will clear up on its own within several days without medical treatment.
Bacterial conjunctivitis. Caused by bacteria, this type of conjunctivitis can cause serious damage to the eye if left untreated.
Allergic conjunctivitis. Caused by eye irritants such as pollen, dust and animal dander among susceptible individuals. Allergic conjunctivitis may be seasonal (pollen) or flare up year-round (dust; pet dander).
The primary symptom of red eye is an eye that has a pink appearance. Other symptoms of pink eye depend on the type of conjunctivitis you have:
Viral conjunctivitis. Watery, itchy eyes; sensitivity to light. One or both eyes can be affected. Highly contagious; can be spread by coughing and sneezing.
Bacterial conjunctivitis. A sticky, yellow or greenish-yellow eye discharge in the corner of the eye. In some cases, this discharge can be severe enough to cause the eyelids to be stuck together when you wake up. One or both eyes can be affected. Contagious (usually by direct contact with infected hands or items that have touched the eye).
Allergic conjunctivitis. Watery, burning, itchy eyes; often accompanied by stuffiness and a runny nose, and light sensitivity. Both eyes are affected. Not contagious.
Prevention and treatment
Often it can be difficult to tell the type of conjunctivitis you have by symptoms alone (or if some other eye problems or underlying health conditions are causing your symptoms). For these reasons, anytime you develop a red eye, call our office immediately and schedule an eye exam.
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