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12 Causes of Red Eye and Ocular Ailments

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Red eye is a sign of eye inflammation and can occur in one or both eyes.  It occurs when blood vessels in the eye become swollen or irritated and can affect any part of the eye.  It is one of the most common eye ailments seen by primary care physicians and has a multitude of causes.  Red eye is an alarming condition and the majority of cases represent minor eye problems.  But some cases may be serious and require emergency medical evaluation.  The most serious cases of red eye may be accompanied by eye pain or changes in vision.

Twelve causes of red eye are…


1. Infectious Conjunctivitis

Infectious conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye”, is the most common cause of red eye.  It is an extremely contagious infection, particularly among school-age children.  Conjunctivitis represents inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin layer of tissue covering the eyeball and inner surfaces of the eyelid.  Bacterial or viral infection may cause infectious conjunctivitis.  It may affect one or both eyes.

Classic symptoms of “pink eye” can include red eye(s), discharge from the eye(s), itchy or scratchy eye(s), excessive tearing, increased sensitivity to light, and crusting of eyelids or eyelashes.  The most common viral cause in children is adenovirus.  The most common bacterial cause in kids is strep.  Treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis usually involves antibiotic eye drops or ointments.  Antibiotics cannot cure viral conjunctivitis and it just has to run its course.  The majority of cases of infectious conjunctivitis resolve without complication.

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