Irritated or bloodshot eyes are a common problem. The eyes are reddened and feel itchy and can be watery. In most cases, irritated eyes have a harmless cause and can be treated at home. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends seeing a doctor if the irritated eyes are accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
• Mucus or pus leaking out of the eyes
• Abnormal sensitivity to light
A patient should also see the doctor if their eye irritation has lasted for over a week.
A cornea scratch or abrasion is the result of a foreign object scraping the surface of the eye. Common causes of cornea scratches include dust, sand, contact lenses, metal particles, and wood shavings. Symptoms of a cornea scratch include pain, sensitivity to light, redness, tearing, and a gritty feeling in the eye. Cornea scratches should always be seen by a doctor, for they can become infected and develop into a cornea ulcer. With treatment, a cornea scratch usually heals within a couple of days.
An eye infection can be bacterial, fungal, or viral. In addition to causing bloodshot and irritated eyes, an eye infection may be accompanied by mucus or pus discharge, a crust developing around the eyelashes or eyelids, and swollen membranes around the eyes. Viral infections are usually mild and go away on their own after a week or two. Bacterial infections are usually treated with eye drops containing antibiotics, which can be prescribed by your ophthalmologist, while fungal infections are generally treated with antifungal medications that can be in pill or eyedrop form.
Eye allergies, more formally called allergic conjunctivitis, are caused by the same allergens that cause nasal allergies. In fact, the two often occur together. Eye allergies cause burning, reddened, and itchy eyes that often produce a watery discharge. The doctor will often recommend over-the-counter medications like artificial tears or oral antihistamines at first. If they don’t work, they may recommend prescription medications like allergy shots. Depending on the cause of the allergy, the patient may also have to make lifestyle changes, like keeping their windows closed during pollen season.
Dry eye is a common condition in which the eyes either don’t produce enough tears, or they don’t produce tears with the proper mixture of layers. The condition is most common in older people, and it can accompany certain diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to the usual signs of eye irritation, symptoms of dry eye can include excess tearing, blurred vision, and strings of mucus around the eyes. Treatment will depend on the cause, but the doctor will typically start by recommending artificial tears.
The good news is that the various causes of eye irritation often have straightforward treatments or can at least be controlled through non-surgical means. Many conditions also respond to lifestyle changes. If the patient does need surgery, it will generally be an outpatient procedure.
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.