Are Red Eyes a Serious Condition?

Are Red Eyes a Serious Condition?

"Red eye" is a term used to describe eyes that are bloodshot for any reason. The redness develops when blood vessels near the surface become swollen. But it’s why the blood vessels are swollen that’s important. 

While most people get red eyes every now and again, a consistently red eye isn’t normal.

If you have red eyes that are irritated, sore, itchy, or painful, our team at Omphroy Eye Care in Aiea, Hawaii, can help. Ophthalmologist Dr. Luis C. Omphroy is an expert at diagnosing and treating red eyes.

We offer same-day appointments so we can get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible, and you can feel better fast.

Are red eyes a serious condition?

It depends on the underlying cause. A speck of dust or pollen can irritate the eye, causing it to become red, but you can wash out the speck or take an antihistamine for the seasonal allergy, and you’re fine. 

If you have swollen blood vessels from glaucoma, though, you’re in the process of losing your peripheral vision, and that’s serious.

There are dozens of causes of red eyes. Here are a number of the more common ones, including their severity and how we treat them.


Red eyes that develop from seasonal allergies often come with burning and itching symptoms. The redness is the result of the blood vessels dilating in the front part of the eye, which causes fluid to accumulate and swelling. 

At-home remedies include cold compresses, artificial tears, and over-the-counter allergy medications. Systemic allergy medications can actually dry out the eyes, so Dr. Omphroy may prescribe eyedrops specifically formulated for allergies.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

Pink eye is a swelling or infection of the conjunctiva, the clear, protective layer covering the front part of the eye. It may be caused by bacteria, viruses, toxic substances, or allergies. It's quite common, but usually not serious. 

If it's associated with pain and vision changes, come into our office as soon as you can. If the infection is bacterial, Dr. Omphroy can prescribe antibiotics. For viral or allergic cases, compresses, fluids, and rest are the best treatments.


Blepharitis is caused by impacted oil glands that can't release the tear film’s oily layer, leading to eyelid inflammation. 

The condition isn’t infectious and doesn’t permanently damage your eyesight, but you may have red and swollen eyelids, excessive tearing and itching, and crusting. 

Maintain good eyelid hygiene, removing makeup fully and cleaning your lids and lashes with eyelid scrubs. If these don’t help, Dr. Omphroy can prescribe antibiotics or other medications to keep the problem in check.


This condition results from an inflammation of the eye's uvea, the middle layer of the eyeball. Symptoms may occur suddenly and get worse very quickly, causing redness, pain, floaters, blurry vision, and light sensitivity. 

Dr. Omphroy may prescribe a steroid to reduce the inflammation and swelling, and if he determines the underlying cause of the problem, he treats that as well. It’s important to treat this condition quickly to prevent complications, such as uveitic glaucoma or retinal and choroidal scarring.

Corneal abrasions and ulcers

Scratches to the cornea, either from an injury or from wearing contact lenses, can lead to an infection. Ulcers may develop as a result of that infection. Nearby blood vessels become enlarged as immune cells rush in, causing visible redness. 

You may also experience pain, discharge, blurred vision, a white spot on the cornea, itchiness, and light sensitivity. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately, as the condition has the potential to cause vision loss.

Treatment generally consists of medicated drops to treat the underlying cause of the infection, whether bacterial, viral, or fungal. Generally, we don't prescribe steroids at the beginning of treatment, though we may use them to reduce inflammation and scarring when the infection is under control.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma

Sometimes a red eye does indicate a serious condition. Acute angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the fluid pressure inside the eye rises quickly, causing sudden redness, severe pain, and blurred vision in just one eye. 

If you experience these symptoms, you're having a medical emergency. Call Dr. Omphroy immediately to get treatment, as this condition can result in loss of vision.

If you have red eyes, note any other symptoms you’re experiencing, and contact us today to make a same-day appointment so we can determine the severity of your condition and treat it accordingly.

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