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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. Lowy at Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord 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

What Is the Long-Term Impact of Virtual Learning on Children’s Eyes?

Kids, like adults, are spending more time online. At some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, many children attended school via Zoom and completed assignments online. The trend toward more screen time — whether playing games or being in touch with friends — is likely to continue even after everyone returns to the classroom. 

We already know that prolonged screen time can cause digital eye strain as well as dry eye symptoms, among other problems in children and adults. There is some indication that extended exposure to blue light may impact the development of retinal cells. However, studies on actual subjects still need to be done to establish a clear connection. 

Dry Eyes

Spending a long time in front of screens can impact how quickly our tears evaporate, because we blink around 66% less when using a computer compared to other daily activities. When tears evaporate too quickly and aren’t replenished with blinking our eyes start to feel dry and gritty. So remember to blink every few seconds to prevent your eyes from drying out!

Digital Eye Strain

Nearly 60% of people who routinely use computers or digital devices experience symptoms of digital eye strain — also called computer vision syndrome. Symptoms of eye strain include eye fatigue and discomfort, dry eye, headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, eye twitching, and red eyes. 

Taking frequent breaks from your screen can help reduce eye strain and neck, back and shoulder pain during your workday.

It is recommended to take at least one 10-minute break every hour. During these breaks, stand up, move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to relieve tension and muscle aches. 

Also, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This relaxes the focusing lens inside the eye to prevent fatigue.

How to Make Virtual Learning Safer For Your Child

The following tips can lessen the impact of screens on your child’s eyes:

  • Reduce overall screen time 
  • Encourage frequent breaks
  • Use accessories that filter blue light (for example, blue light glasses)
  • Schedule regular eye exams

Make Sure Your Child Gets Routine Eye Exams

Children need comprehensive eye exams to assess the health of their eyes, correct their vision and spot potential problems which can affect learning and behavior. 

If you are concerned about the effect of virtual learning and screen time on your child’s eyes, or if you’re due for a checkup, schedule an eye doctor‘s appointment at Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord. 

Q&A

What are blue light glasses?

Blue light glasses, also known as computer glasses, effectively block the transmission of blue light emitted from devices and computer screens. They often include a coating to reduce glare to further reduce eye strain. 

What’s the 20-20-20 rule?

If you find yourself gazing at screens all day, whether your computer, smartphone, iPad or television, you’re at risk of experiencing eye strain. So make sure you schedule frequent breaks from your screen and follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And while you’re at it, use this time to get up, walk around, and stretch. 

How Sleep Apnea Affects The Eyes

Did you know that some eye conditions are associated with sleep apnea? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and Health Canada reports similar prevalence. It’s a sleep disorder where people stop breathing — often multiple times per night — while sleeping.

If you have sleep apnea: it tends to take longer for your tears to be replenished, you’re more likely to have ocular irritation, you have a higher chance of developing floppy eyelids, and you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During OSA, your airway becomes partially blocked due to relaxed muscles in your nose and throat. This causes apnea (the absence of breathing) or hypopnea (abnormally shallow, slow breathing). It’s twice as common in men, and is more likely to affect people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. 

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, which can lead to potentially serious health consequences. 

While snoring is a common symptom, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Interrupted sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability or depression, headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and a sore throat.

Which Eye Conditions Are Associated With Sleep Apnea?

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, leading to vision loss and sometimes blindness. In some cases, it might be due to a drop in blood oxygen levels, which happens when you stop breathing.

So, people with sleep apnea — even if it’s being treated — need to get their eyes checked on a regular basis for glaucoma.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome 

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person has an unusually large and floppy upper eyelid. It can cause eye redness, irritation, discharge, or blurry vision — and over 90% of people with FES also have sleep apnea.

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is an eye condition that occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. Patients typically complain of sudden, significant vision loss in one eye without any major pain. Approximately 70-80% of patients with NAION have been found to have OSA.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Also referred to as an ‘eye stroke,’ retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. A recent study of 114 RVO patients found that sleep apnea was suspected in 74% of the patients that had previously been diagnosed with RVO. 

Other Eye Health Issues Associated With Sleep Apnea

Some other ocular conditions that are more common in patients with sleep apnea include: papilledema, keratoconus, and central serous chorioretinopathy. Furthermore, in addition to glaucoma mentioned above, CPAP machines are associated with dry eye syndrome and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Talk To Your Doc

Get eye exams regularly to rule out eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss, especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. At Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord we encourage you to share your medical history with us so we can better diagnose and treat any eye conditions or ocular diseases you may have, and help you keep your eyes nice and healthy.

Try These 5 Home Remedies For Dry Eye Syndrome

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Dry Eye Treatments At Lowy & Sewell Eye Care

If your eyes sting, burn, or feel scratchy you may have dry eye syndrome (DES), a condition that is usually caused by low-quality or low production of tears.

There are many factors that can cause dry eyes. Smoke and dry air can dry out the eyes, and so can wearing contact lenses, taking certain medications, and spending long periods of time reading a book or looking at a computer screen. In addition, our eyes tend to get drier as we age.

No matter the cause, dry eye syndrome can be extremely uncomfortable, and in severe cases can damage the cornea.

While only Dr. Lowy can diagnose and treat dry eye syndrome, these 5 home remedies may provide some relief.

Warm Compresses

A warm compress will improve oil flow through your eyelid glands and clean your eyelids. You can make them at home with a small face cloth and warm water or purchase compresses at your local pharmacy.

Eyelid Wash

A great form of preventative care is eye washing. Washing your eyes you can keep your tear ducts and eyelids from getting blocked.

To help remove crust from your eyelids and eyelashes and to keep your eyes cleaner, try applying a sting-free shampoo. Some pharmacies sell over-the-counter eyelid and eyelash washes to clean these areas.

Add Omega-3 to Your Diet

Oils are a necessary component of tears, as they add lubrication and reduce evaporation. Dry eye syndrome can result from insufficient oil, so adding omega-3 to your diet can increase the oil in tears.

To increase your omega-3 intake, either take supplements or eat foods that contain high levels of the fatty acid.

Foods that contain Omega-3 include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Palm oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts

Take Frequent Breaks and Blink More

When watching TV, reading, or using the computer many people forget to blink. It’s important to take breaks and blink more to inspire the flow of tears, which helps keep the moisture in your eyes intact. A well-known rule to follow is the 20-20-20 rule. It involves taking breaks at least every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds — especially when staring at a computer screen or digital device for long periods.

Tweak Your Environment

Environmental factors can cause or exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Heat, dust, smoke, pollution, high winds, and air conditioning all dry out our eyes. Using a cold-mist humidifier and not sitting directly in front of an air conditioner, heater, or fan can help reduce eye irritation.

Stay Hydrated

Last but not least: drink more water! Staying well-hydrated is good for your eyes and is critical for producing healthy tears, clearing out debris, blinking, and seeing comfortably. Be sure you drink lots of water to maintain your eye health, and of course, overall physical well-being.

Home remedies can relieve mild dry eyes but are not a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam. If the symptoms persist or worsen, contact Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord. We are committed to keeping your eyes healthy and your vision clear.

Frequently Asked Dry Eye Questions with Dr. Lowy

Q: How do I know if I have Dry Eye?

A: Dry eye can cause quite a few symptoms, anything from the eyes actually feeling dry to the eyes watering often, or having a burning, itchy, or irritated feeling. One of the most common symptoms is the eyes feeling gritty or like something is in your eye. Most people will often experience blurred vision since the tears, which comprise the outermost surface of the eye, are unstable.

Q: What are some of the warning signs of Dry Eye? How is it best detected?

A: Warning signs can accumulate quite gradually over many years. Not uncommonly among contact lens wearers, they may incorrectly assume the lenses are old and need to be replaced. Other times the eyes water a bit more, or burn, or itch. Many, many cases are sub-clinical – they can only be diagnosed with the use of microscopic detection and special equipment. We look at tear quality, tear meniscus, and gland structure. Research has pointed towards the testing of tear osmolarity as a reliable indicator of the disease in terms of pre-treatment and post-treatment situations.

Q: When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of this problem yourself?

A: Patients should undergo a dry eye evaluation by a therapeutic optometrist at the first signs of dry eyes. Those who wear, or over wear, contact lenses are at higher risk for dry eye syndrome, as are patients who suffer from multiple systemic conditions. Patients who are taking multiple medications may also complain of dry eye due to drug interactions. Mild acute symptoms may be treated with over the counter drops, but most patients select an incorrect product that isn’t specific to their condition and can often mask serious conditions or lead to toxic corneal reactions. A consult is also warranted for any patient who has been recently diagnosed with an autoimmune condition or undergoing high-risk medications.

Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?

A: Treatment for dry eye varies due to the severity and stage of the disease. Artificial tears can be helpful in the early stages. If artificial tears are not sufficient, we progress to a prescription medication such as Restasis or Xiidra. Also, lid hygiene, as well as omega-3 fish oil supplementation, can improve symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications, as well as punctal plugs, are also available if needed for treatment.

 




Quality Eye Care – Dry Eye Treatments In Concord, Ontario. Visit Lowy & Sewell Eye Care for an eye exam today.