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Bloodshot Eyes – Should You Be Concerned?

You wake up in the morning ready to start your day, only to discover that your eyes are bloodshot. That might not be surprising if you stayed up late to finish a project, had too many drinks at a party or spent time in a smoke-filled room.

But bloodshot eyes can also signal an underlying eye problem. If your eyes appear red or bloodshot, make an appointment with an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam to determine the cause and to receive effective treatment.

Why Do I Have Bloodshot Eyes?

When blood rushes to the front of the eye, the tiny red blood vessels on the white of the eye dilate and become visible. This makes the eyes appear red and irritated.

So why do these blood vessels dilate, causing your eyes to look bloodshot?

Bloodshot eyes tend to be caused by:

  • Dry eyes
  • Irritants such as smoke, pollen and perfume
  • Lack of sleep
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Spending too much time in front of the computer

Bloodshot eyes due to lifestyle and environmental irritants may disappear on their own, or you can try to relieve them with over-the-counter eye drops or liquid tears. Lifestyle changes, such as getting more sleep, cutting down on alcohol intake and limiting screen time can often be helpful. If allergies are the culprit, oral antihistamines and antihistamine eye drops may relieve symptoms.

At other times, underlying problems requiring prompt medical attention can cause your eye’s blood vessels to dilate. The following are some of these medical conditions:

Conjunctivitis

You’ve probably heard of “pink eye.” It’s another name for infectious conjunctivitis – an infection of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the eyelid and the front surface of the eye.

There are two types of infectious conjunctivitis – bacterial and viral.

If your child has conjunctivitis, they’re not alone. About 12% of kids get bacterial conjunctivitis every year. This highly contagious condition affects children and adults. In addition to reddish eyes, the following symptoms are associated with conjunctivitis:

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis – irritated eyes, swollen eyelids, eye discharge, crusty eyelids and excessive tearing
  • Viral conjunctivitis – cold or flu-like symptoms, runny nose, fever, itchy eyes, excessive tearing

If you or your child are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to schedule a prompt appointment with an eye doctor, who can diagnose whether the conjunctivitis is viral, bacterial or due to allergies.

Depending on the diagnosis, your eye doctor will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or creams to treat bacterial conjunctivitis. The viral form may run its course after a few days, but cold compresses and non-prescription eye drops may provide relief.

Dry Eye Syndrome

If your eyes are chronically bloodshot you may have dry eye syndrome (DES). Signs of DES include:

  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Burning or stinging eyes
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • A feeling you have something stuck in your eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes

Dry eye syndrome is most commonly caused by a blockage of the tiny meibomian glands in the eyelids. These glands secrete oil that keeps eye moisture from evaporating too quickly. Without the oil, tears dry fast, leaving your eyes feeling dry, itchy and with a bloodshot appearance.

Too much screen time, aging, certain medications such as antihistamines, and medical conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome can cause dry eye syndrome.

In addition to any medications or in-office treatments your eye doctor recommends, make sure to get plenty of hydration, take frequent breaks from digital screens and use a humidifier in your home.

Uveitis

In addition to bloodshot eyes, if you also experience blurred vision, see floaters or your eyes feel painful, you may have an eye inflammation called uveitis. The causes of uveitis include:

  • Autoimmune or inflammatory condition
  • Infection
  • Medication side effects
  • Cancer (in rare cases)

Unfortunately, uveitis symptoms can often be mistaken for something less serious. That’s the reason it’s important to get an eye exam if your eyes are bloodshot. Left untreated, uveitis can lead to serious conditions such as retinal scarring, cataracts and vision loss.

Depending on the cause and severity, your eye doctor may treat uveitis with prescription eye drops, steroid pills, injections or eye implants.

Eye Injury

It’s vital that all eye injuries receive immediate eye care from an eye doctor.

Even a minor eye injury can cause a big red blotch to form on the white part of the eye (sclera). The cause is a broken blood vessel or a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Although the appearance of this blood looks severe, and can make the entire white part of the eye appear bright red, a subconjunctival hemorrhage is usually painless and doesn’t cause vision loss. Any time you notice excessive blood on the eye following an eye injury, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor to assess the health of your eye.

Glaucoma

In rare cases, bloodshot eyes may signal the presence of glaucoma – a leading cause of vision loss and blindness.

While some types of glaucoma don’t show symptoms in the early phases, bloodshot eyes can indicate the type of glaucoma that requires immediate medical care. This disease causes damage to the optic nerve due to excessive pressure within the eye. When this pressure suddenly rises, the eye’s blood vessels become dilated and visible, making the eye appear red.

If you have bloodshot eyes and/or have the following risk factors for glaucoma, immediately schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.

  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Aged 60+
  • African American, Asian or Hispanic
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Bloodshot Eyes Won’t Go Away?

Talk to Us Any time you notice bloodshot eyes or blood on the front of the eye, don’t wait. Schedule your eye exam with Dr. Howard Dolman at Dolman Eyecare Centre in New Hamburg today.

Q&A With Your Local Optometrist

Can I get bloodshot eyes after LASIK surgery?

LASIK surgery is highly effective minimally invasive laser eye surgery that can correct refractive errors, but like all surgical procedures, it can have side effects. Your eyes may be bloodshot or you could see halos from a few days to three weeks after surgery. Additionally, you may experience other dry eye symptoms. Eye drops and liquid tears can alleviate these symptoms, but if you have any concerns about your eyes following LASIK surgery contact your eye surgeon.

What Should I Expect from a Glaucoma Exam?

If you have a family history and/or other risk factors for glaucoma, and if your eyes look bloodshot, consider scheduling a glaucoma exam. Your eye doctor may perform the following tests:

  • Tonometry – eye pressure test
  • Gonioscopy – to see how fluid is draining out of your eye
  • Vision field test – to examine the functioning of the optic nerve
  • Dilated pupil exam – to detect any damage to the optic nerve
  • Retinal photo or OCT – digital examination of the retina and optic nerve health

5 Important Eye Care Tips For Kids

Your child’s ability to see the world relies on healthy eyes as well as good vision. By teaching your children how to care for their eyes, you help protect them from injury and ensure that their eyes and vision remain healthy in the long run. Here are our 5 top eye care tips for kids. 

Good Eye Care Habits for Children

1. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Drink Plenty of Water

A nutritious diet and healthy eyes go hand in hand. Encourage your child to eat healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and prioritize foods rich in vitamin A found in green leafy and yellow vegetables. Eggs are also rich in important nutrients, containing vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc, all vital for eye health. 

Another thing to look out for is proper hydration. Hydration plays a key role in maintaining healthy eyes and a healthy body, so make sure your child drinks plenty of water (the appropriate amount will vary according to your child’s age, level of physical activity and weather conditions). 

2. Wear Eye Protection

Physical activity is enjoyable and healthy, but make sure your child is wearing the right protective eyewear, like safety goggles, whenever they participate in sports or activities that could cause an eye injury (i.e. playing basketball, hockey, or carpentry). Wearing a helmet for sports like riding a bicycle protects against concussions, which can result in lingering vision problems. 

Furthermore, provide your child with good UV-blocking sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s dangerous rays. Staring directly at the sun, or the light reflecting off water and snow, can potentially cause retinal burns, leading to long term damage.

3. Give The Eyes a Rest

Staring at digital devices while at school, followed by playing video games or watching TV in the evening can cause eye strain. Be sure your child gets sufficient sleep to allow their eyes to rest. Replace evening activities with those that don’t require intense eye focusing: going to the park, playing outdoors with friends, or simply lying down with their eyes closed while listening to music or an audiobook. 

4. Reduce Time Spent on Digital Devices

Spending time on digital devices and staring at screens is an integral part of our lives. Playing video games, watching videos on their smartphones and playing computer games, all require the eyes to fixate for extended periods of time, which can lead to digital eye strain, headaches and even dry eyes.

Try to reduce the amount of time your child spends on the screen by getting your child to participate in other activities, such as sports. And when using digital devices or screens for long periods of time, try to get them into the habit of taking frequent breaks and give their eyes a rest by looking into the distance every twenty minutes. (The 20 / 20 / 20 rule.)

5. Get Their Eyes Checked Regularly

School-aged children’s vision can change often, and unexpectedly, until the late teenage years. Left uncorrected, poor eyesight can interfere with learning, and cause behavioral and attention issues. 

Getting a routine eye exam is important as it can uncover vision problems, detect eye conditions early on, and significantly increase the odds of preserving long-term eye health. For those who wear glasses or contacts, it’s important to check for any changes and update the prescription as needed. 

Ensure your child’s eyes are being cared for properly by scheduling an eye exam with Dolman Eyecare Centre in New Hamburg today. Your child’s eye doctor can further educate them on eye safety and answer any questions you or your child may have. 

 

Q&A

My kid frequently rubs their eyes. Is that bad?

Kids often rub their eyes, especially if they have allergies, irritated eyes, or they feel like something is stuck in their peepers. Rubbing can scratch the cornea, and transfer bacteria from the child’s hands to their eyes, causing an eye infection. 

Instead of rubbing, have them apply a cold compress to the closed eyelids or apply an artificial tear to flush out any foreign body or irritant. If the problem persists, contact your child’s optometrist.

Other than reducing screen time, is there anything else I can do to maintain eye health & safety? 

When you’re at home, keep an eye on your children’s playtime and make sure that none of their toys — or the toys at their friends’ homes — are sharp. Sharp plastic swords and toys with jagged edges can cause serious eye injuries. 

How to Deal with Contact Lens Discomfort

Do your eyes itch or burn when wearing contact lenses? There are several reasons why you may be experiencing contact lens discomfort. Discover the possible causes behind the problem and see what you can do to relieve your discomfort.

What Causes Contact Lens Discomfort?

Some of the top causes of uncomfortable contacts are:

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that arises when your tears can’t keep your eyes sufficiently lubricated due to an imbalance in the tear film. Certain diseases, medications and environmental factors, like high levels of dryness and wind, can cause or contribute to red, itchy or irritated eyes, especially when wearing contacts.

Allergies

Allergens are typically harmless substances that induce an allergic response in certain people. Pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are some of the most common airborne allergens that trigger eye allergies. Cosmetics and certain eye drops, such as artificial tears with preservatives, can also induce eye allergies, which can make contact lens wear uncomfortable.

Corneal Irregularities

The cornea at the front of the eye may be irregularly shaped due to astigmatism, keratoconus, eye surgeries (i.e. LASIK or cataract surgery), eye injuries or burns, scarring, corneal ulcers and/or severe dry eye. Irregular corneas often prevent traditional contact lenses from fitting correctly and comfortably.

Symptoms of Contact Lens Discomfort 

  • Burning, itchy, stinging eyes
  • Sensation of something being stuck in the eye
  • Excessive watering or tearing of the eyes
  • Unusual eye secretions
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Blurred vision, rainbows, or halos around objects
  • Sensitivity to light

How to Relieve Contact Lens Discomfort

Try Different Contact Lenses

Nowadays, there are many types of contact lenses on the market, including specialty contacts for dry eyes and astigmatism. Meet with our optometrist for a personalized eye exam for contacts.

With the variety of contact lens brands available, switching to a different contact lens may be the simplest answer if you’re experiencing discomfort that isn’t connected to improper fitting or issues with tear production. If your existing lenses fit well but still irritate and dry out your eyes, speak to us about trying a different design or brand of contact lenses, or changing your lens-wearing schedule. 

Artificial Tears or Eye Drops

Over-the-counter artificial tears or eye drops are a common way to temporarily relieve contact lens discomfort. However, it’s important to keep in mind that unless prescribed by an eye doctor, they may not be treating the root of the problem. 

Moreover, certain eye drops are incompatible with contact lenses, and may damage your contacts or harm your eyes. We also recommend staying away from products that claim to remove redness from your eyes, which temporarily reduce the size of blood vessels to lessen redness, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition, and can actually worsen it over time.  

Take Good Care of Your Lenses

Inadequate contact lens care leaves residue on your lenses, which can discomfort, harmful eye infections and inflammation. Below are a few important contact lens hygiene guidelines to follow:

  • Before handling your contact lenses, thoroughly wash and dry your hands.
  • Remove your lenses before showering, bathing or swimming to prevent infection. 
  • Do not sleep in your contact lenses (unless they are approved for sleeping). 
  • Replace your contact lenses according to the manufacturer’s instructions (e.g., don’t reuse daily wear lenses).
  • Regularly clean your contact lens case and ask your eye doctor when to replace it.
  • Only use a contact lens solution that is appropriate for your lenses. 
  • Never reuse or mix contact lens solutions.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor.

If you are experiencing discomfort with your contact lenses, get in touch with Dolman Eyecare Centre in New Hamburg today. We’ll get to the bottom of the problem and provide effective solutions for all-day comfort.

Q&A

What kinds of contacts are available?

Contact lenses are available in a wide range of materials and replacement schedules. Disposable contact lenses and extended wear contacts are the most convenient for many users.

I’ve already been fitted for contact lenses, so why did my optometrist ask me to come back?

If you’re asked to return a week later, it’s because your optometrist wants to rule out any issues, such as contact lens-related dry eye or irritation.

If it’s been around a year since your last eye checkup, you’ve likely been contacted to check whether your prescription has changed and to evaluate your eye health. The sooner problems are detected and treated, the better the outcome. 

How Smoking Impacts Vision

Smoking harms nearly every system in your body — including your eyes. 

Though we are all aware of the health effects associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and tooth decay, few know about the negative impact it can have on our vision. 

Smoking and Eye Disease 

Smoking, especially 20 cigarettes or more daily over a long period of time, can adversely impact your vision. Cigarette smoke is made up of compounds that can damage health and have been shown to cause cerebral lesions which affect the area of the brain that processes vision.

More specifically, tobacco addiction increases the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, smoke is an irritant that can cause or exacerbate dry eye syndrome. Below we’ll delve a little further into each of these conditions. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration 

Smokers run a high risk of developing AMD, a condition that severely impairs central vision, making it difficult or impossible to read, drive, recognize faces and colours, and leads to permanent vision loss in those aged 65 or older. Fortunately, the risk can be dramatically diminished by putting an end to tobacco smoking — even if later in life. 

Cataracts

Heavy smokers double their risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts are characterized by cloudy, blurred or double vision, photophobia, and reduced night vision. However, cataract surgery is a common procedure which replaces the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular replacement. 

Uveitis

Uveitis, the inflammation of the eye’s central layer, is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness. This condition damages important structures of the eye, notably the iris and retina, and can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers have a 2.2 times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-smokers. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Smoking raises one’s risk of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy as well. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye, which — in severe cases — can deprive the retina of oxygen and result in blindness.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition characterized by insufficient tears, or when the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication. Common symptoms include red, itchy, and gritty eyes.

Heavy smokers, and those exposed to secondhand smoke, not only double their risk of developing dry eye but also exacerbate an existing condition, especially among the contact lens wearers.

Secondhand Smoke and Eye Disease 

Secondhand smoke— which includes the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette as well as the smoke exhaled— is nearly as harmful to health and vision. Second-hand smoke places others’ eyesight in danger, particularly for young children and infants. Furthermore, studies indicate that women who smoke during pregnancy put the newborn baby at risk of being born with eye disease or visual impairment that could affect his or her ability to learn.

Stop Smoking to Save Your Vision

The good news is that giving up smoking can have an immediate effect on your health — and it’s never too late to quit! Once the habit is broken, your body will begin to repair itself to prevent vision loss. It can be challenging to quit, as it requires dedication, support, and advanced planning. Dr. Howard Dolman and the rest of the staff at Dolman Eyecare Centre in New Hamburg care about your health and will be happy to provide any assistance or resources to help you quit smoking and improve your eye health. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to protect your health and vision.