Understanding Noninfectious Red Eye: Prevention of Inflammation
Although red eyes are sometimes caused by contagious viral or bacterial infections, an inflammation in 1 or both eyes is often caused by allergies or environmental irritants. Sometimes the cause of the allergy or irritant can be hard to find.
Do your eyes swell and itch when you pet a cat? Do they get red, watery, and itchy every spring or summer? If so, you may have an allergy to animals or pollen. Along with dust and mold, animals and pollen are the most common causes of allergies. With an allergy, typically, both eyes are inflamed when you have been exposed to whatever is causing the allergy. Some allergies are seasonal. Others are related to a specific type of exposure, such as cats or dogs.
Treating the Symptoms
The only cure for an allergy is to avoid the substance, or allergen, that’s causing the allergy. Eyedrops and cold compresses can help reduce swelling and relieve redness and itching. Symptoms typically get better by using allergy eyedrops or by limiting your exposure to the allergen. If your allergy is severe, your doctor may prescribe oral medication, such as antihistamines or steroids, or refer you to a specialist.
Air pollution, smoke, and fumes can irritate your eyes and cause the blood vessels to swell. So can contact lenses, especially extended-wear lenses, and some eyedrops. Your eyelids may get red and swollen and your eyes may water, but they usually don’t itch as much as they do with allergies. Depending on the cause, 1 or both eyes may be inflamed.
Treating the Inflammation
The best way to clear up the inflammation is to avoid the irritant. Artificial tears help flush out the eye and lubricate its surface. Your doctor may also prescribe medicated anti-inflammatory or anti-allergy eyedrops to reduce swelling and relieve redness.