How to Treat Your Red Eyes: Some Clarity on Eye Infections

By John Morlino, DO stop-rubbing-your-eyes

It’s the season of itchy, red eyes. eMedical Urgent Care in Berkeley Heights and Middletown, NJ, see a variety of eye infections throughout the year but recently we’ve seen quite a number of patients with red eyes.

The most common causes for these types of eye infections are:

Pink Eye

The first group of diseases causing red eyes are infections caused by viruses or bacteria. The term “pink eye” refers to an inflammation of the membrane covering the eye. This film is called the conjunctiva, and when red, we say you have conjunctivitis. The version caused by a virus will result in red eyes, with a mostly dry feeling. With bacterial infections, there is a thick, yellowish discharge of pus. Both types of eye infections are contagious and require anti-infective (antibiotic) or anti-inflammatory eye drops.

Allergies

Another frequently encountered type of red eyes is caused by allergies. An allergic conjunctivitis may be a reaction to dust, mold, pollen, smoke or paint fumes. You’ll get red, itchy, watering eyes, possibly accompanied by sneezing or a runny nose. Anti-allergic eye drops, including some sold over the counter, work well. Prescription-strength drops offer the convenience of just once or twice a day application.

Injury

Red eyes also may be caused by an injury, such as being poked in the eye. This injury will cause a corneal abrasion or to simplify, a scratch on the surface of the eye. To check for this, we’ll numb your eye with anesthetic drops, add a stain to highlight the injury, and then examine the eye in the dark with a blue light.

If there are foreign bodies stuck to the eye or beneath the lid, such as sand, we’ll attempt to remove them. If the injury appears orange, the dye is then rinsed out and an eye patch is placed over the eye for protection. This type of injury usually heals within two or three days.

Glaucoma & Inflammatory Conditions

The more serious types of red eye problems involve disorders inside of the eye. These include increased pressure (glaucoma) and inflammatory conditions of the structures that enable focusing and vision. Usually, but not always, the more severe eye disorders cause pain and some degree of visual impairment. In many cases the eye isn’t even red. If we think you have an internal problem or your red eye isn’t getting better, we’ll send you to a specialist, such as an optometrist, who is an eye physician qualified to diagnose and treat medical conditions of the eye, or an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who performs all eye services including surgery.

So, here’s looking at you, hopefully with clear eyes.

John Morlino, DO, has been with eMedical Urgent Care since 1984. He is board-certified in emergency medicine. Dr. Morlino earned his medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his family practice residency at Union Memorial Hospital, Union, N.J.  Dr. Morlino holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and physics/mathematics. He also is a certified paralegal.

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