Red, dry, itchy eyes can often be written off as a minor symptom of irritants or problems such as allergies, fatigue or substance abuse. Many people think that their red eyes will disappear when there's less dander or smoke in their surroundings or if they could just get a bit more sleep at night. In many cases, this assumption is correct. Dr. Larry Carr of Saugeen Shores Family Eye Care, in Port Elgin, Ontario cautions, however, “It is important to note that sometimes your red, dry, itchy eyes may indicate a more serious eye condition called dry eye syndrome, in which your eyes feel chronically dry and uncomfortable. This may be triggered by hormonal changes, illness and side effects from some medications. Knowing the difference between normal, run-of-the-mill red eye and dry eye syndrome may help you recognize dry eye syndrome earlier and spare yourself considerable pain and discomfort.”
Red Eyes Causes and Treatment
Dr. Carr explains, “Generally, red eyes are not a serious condition. Most of the time, proper hygiene and time are all that one needs for the condition to get better. When the blood vessels on the surface of the eye become irritated from dust, allergens or other minor irritants, they may become inflamed and dilated, causing the blood vessels in the eye to become more visible. This is what causes your eyes to appear to be 'red' or 'bloodshot.'”
Allergies from pet dander, pollen, or other common allergens in a person's immediate surroundings are the most common cause of red eyes. Red eyes from allergies or substance abuse usually go back to normal soon after the allergen is removed or the substance has left the body, while conjunctivitis and similar infections may take as much as a few weeks for your red eyes to clear up.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Unlike normal red eyes, which generally require no professional attention, dry eye syndrome often requires professional assistance, and is likely to go on causing pain and discomfort until help is obtained to ease symptoms. There are a number of dysfunctions in a person's eye that may contribute to the chronic dryness of the eye that is the chief feature of dry eye syndrome. One possibility is that the eye is not producing a sufficient amount of tears to keep the eye hydrated and comfortable. Alternatively, it is possible that the eye is indeed producing enough tears, but the tears that are produced lack one or more essential ingredients that allow them to properly hydrate the eye. Depending on which parts are missing, tears may be unable to spread out over the eye sufficiently, or may evaporate too quickly to keep the eye hydrated.
Specially formulated eye drops, called artificial tears, are the leading recommended treatment for dry eye syndrome. These drops are specifically created to imitate the natural tears that are produced by the eye. Artificial tears come in a number of varieties, depending on the underlying cause of your dry eye syndrome. Artificial tears may help reduce the shortage of real tears being produced by your eyes, or may attempt to aid in construction of the parts of the tear that are missing.
Knowing which type of artificial tears you need may be difficult, but your optometrist in Port Elgin, ON will help you understand which form of dry eye syndrome you suffer from, and which artificial tears will work best for you.
For questions and more information, consult Dr. Larry Carr today.