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Red Eyes Vs. Dry Eyes: What is the Difference?

Red, dry, itchy eyes can signify a number of minor or serious problems with your eyes ranging from minor causes such as allergies and fatigue to more severe causes such as dry eye syndrome. Many cases of red eyes will disappear over the course of time, although those associated with dry eye syndrome require more extensive treatment. Dr. Audrey Farnsworth of Battle Creek Eye Clinic in Battle Creek, Michigan cautions, “It is important to note that your red eyes can mean a number of things. General red eyes will have slightly different causes, symptoms and treatment than dry eye syndrome, in which your eyes feel chronically dry and uncomfortable. Knowing the difference between general red eye and dry eye syndrome may help you recognize which you have earlier and spare you a considerable amount of pain and discomfort.”

Red Eyes - Cause and Treatment

Red eyes are generally a minor condition, and 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.

Allergies from pet dander, pollen, or other common allergens in a person's immediate surroundings are a very common reason for red eyes. Red eyes normally go back to normal on their own, with allergic red eyes getting better soon after the allergen is removed, and conjunctivitis or similar infections returning to normal much more slowly, taking as much as a few weeks to clear up.

Symptoms of red eyes vary depending on what the underlying cause is. Itchiness, dryness and a grainy, gritty feeling are common symptoms of allergies and other minor red eye causes, and yellowish or greenish discharge is a common symptom tied to eye infections.

Dr. Farnsworth cautions, “Since red eye can be a sign of many different underlying conditions, a few of them quite serious, it is important to go to your eye doctor if your red eyes are accompanied by fever or eye pain, in order for your condition to be properly diagnosed and treated.”

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome almost always requires professional assistance to a greater or lesser degree, and is likely to go on causing discomfort until help is found to help with symptoms. Several dysfunctions in the eye may contribute to dry eye syndrome, which is characterized by chronic dryness, redness and itchiness. 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.

Artificial tears are the leading recommended treatment prescribed by optometrists for treating symptoms of dry eye syndrome. These specialty eye drops are specifically created to imitate the natural tears of 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. It is important to go to your optometrist in Battle Creek, MI to 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. Audrey Farnsworth today.