Chances are, there has been at least one time in your life where you’ve woken up and looked in the mirror, only to find that the whites of your eyes are red and irritated. Maybe your eyes itched or your vision was a little blurry. You may have wondered “Why are my eyes bloodshot?” or “Do I have Pink Eye? Only kids get Pink Eye, right?”
Red eyes, or bloodshot eyes, are a general referral to any instance where the whites of your eyes turn red and irritated, and can be caused by a variety of factors, with Pink Eye actually being one of them.
So how wary should you be of bloodshot eyes and Pink Eye?
What is Pink Eye, specifically?
Pink Eye, scientifically known as Conjunctivitis, is one of the more common causes of eye redness. Pink Eye occurs when the lining of the eyeball and eyelid becomes inflamed, and is usually caused by a virus or bacteria, although allergies can also cause it. Some symptoms of Pink Eye include a burning sensation in your eyes, a crust on your eyelids and eyelashes, sensitivity to light, and some discharge. Needless to say, it can be quite discomforting.
Arguably the most common misconception about Pink Eye is that it only happens to children. While it is more common in kids, it is entirely possible for adults to contract Pink Eye too.
Another common misconception is that Pink Eye in all its forms is extremely contagious. While there are many different strains of Pink Eye, the bacterial and viral strains are contagious, but the allergic reaction form of Pink Eye is not. However, the contagious viral and bacterial strains are easily spread. Contracting these strains can be caused by contact with someone with a cold, sharing a towel, or a dirty contact lens, among other things.
Most of the time, the best way to deal with Pink Eye is to just let it run its course, as it will usually go away within a week. Bacterial Pink Eye can easily be treated at home with antibiotic eye drops, ointment, or pills. That being said, there are some instances where seeing a doctor is a good idea, such as if you are feeling severe pain or have blurred vision. These symptoms with Pink Eye can lead to scars on your eyes or could be a sign of other underlying diseases.
What are bloodshot eyes?
Bloodshot eyes, or red eyes, are broad medical terms that describe any cause of someone’s eyes being red with inflamed blood vessels (including Pink Eye) accompanied by symptoms like irritation, burning, itching, dryness, pain, discharge, and sensitivity to light (you’ll notice that some of these overlap with symptoms of Pink Eye).
Some basic causes of eye redness are pollution or dust in the air, smoke, exposure to chlorine in pools, overexposure to sunlight without wearing sunglasses, and eye injury or trauma. There are plenty of causes for a condition as broad and common as red eyes, and there are also many conditions that red eyes can be a symptom of. In some cases, conditions that cause eye redness can be serious and require attention from your eye doctor.
Open sores on the eye, known as corneal ulcers, can result from different types of infections and present as bloodshot eyes. These sores can lead to vision loss, so don’t wait to see an eye doctor if you think you might have sores on the eye.
Dry Eye Syndrome is another condition, generally less severe than corneal ulcers, that can present as bloodshot eyes. This occurs in people whose bodies don’t produce enough tears to properly lubricate and nourish their eyes, which can lead to burning, stinging, scratchiness, blurry vision, fatigued eyes, soreness, and discharge. An eye doctor will be able to determine the best treatment (such as artificial tears) or whether dry eyes are part of a larger medical condition.
Another common form of bloodshot eyes is known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage, which is commonly referred to as a burst or broken blood vessel. A broken vessel causes blood to pool in the white of the eye due to trauma, allergies, or hard coughing and sneezing. These red spots can look serious, but are mostly harmless and painless and heal on their own in a matter of days without the need for treatment.
Should you see a doctor for bloodshot eyes or Pink Eye?
While many of the scary misconceptions about these conditions aren’t true, there are instances when eye redness can be a symptom of a more severe condition.
If Pink Eye persists, your eyes are exceptionally dry, or you have new and persistent irritation, it might be worth consulting your eye doctor in case treatment is needed.
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