Eye problems are a common occurrence and can affect anyone. Modern life is busy and demanding and anyone is susceptible whether in the work place, at home or at leisure. Eyes can become sore, red, tired or dry or it may feel like something is in the eye. Red eyes are characterised by dilated blood vessels causing the appearance of redness on the surface of the eye (sometimes referred to as bloodshot). It is important to look after your eyes and it is recommended that you visit an optician every 2 years for a check-up.
Eyes can appear red because the vessels in the surface of the white portion of the eye become enlarged. Common eye problems can be caused by allergies, in particular hayfever, or by the environment you are in. Dry, dusty or smoky atmospheres can all cause eyes to become sore and irritated. In the workplace computer screens or air-conditioning can be responsible as can long distance or motorway driving. Recreational pastimes like swimming or socialising in smoky pubs, clubs or restaurants can be common causes. Pollen, grit, dirt and pollution can also play a part. Too much straining of eyes at tiny objects, computers or fast-moving objects can cause fatigue of eye muscles causing redness of eyes and possibly pain. Exposure to dust, wind and smoke can cause burning and redness or watering of the eyes. In more serious cases this can cause infection or conjunctivitis.
The common symptoms of minor eye problems include feelings of being sore, red, itchy, burning,tired, scratchiness, dry, or a sensation that there is something in the eye. Symptoms of more serious problems can include pain, blurred vision, discharge, inflammation or sensitivity to light.
Most products on the market to treat minor eye problems can only be purchased from a pharmacy. They contain antihistamines (for allergy related symptoms), astringents (for sore eyes), antibacterials (for minor infections), lubricants (for dry eyes) or vasoconstrictors (for sore, red eyes). Vasoconstrictors can help reduce swollen blood vessels, soothing and removing redness from the eyes. Many of the treatments cannot be used at the same time as contact lenses so check with your pharmacist and always read the label and instructions.
When to consult your doctor
Because eye sight is so vital and the eyes so delicate you should err on the side of caution. If over-the-counter eye drops haven’t helped within a few days and the problem has been ongoing,see your doctor so they can find out the cause and recommend treatment. If you have bloodshot eyes for longer than a few days you should see your doctor. If you are suffering with sudden pain, blurred vision, inflammation or discharge you should consult your doctor straight away.
Blink consciously when doing close or continuous work (eg. At computer) - blink fully with the whole lid shut, rest your eyes with regular breaks from screens, reading or bright objects every 30 minutes.
- Wear good quality sunglasses
- Close eyes for a few seconds from time to time to give them a rest
- Avoid smoky atmospheres
- Use a humidifier to reduce the dry atmosphere in the home and office
- Avoid car heaters, particularly at face level
- Sit away from direct heat such as gas or electric fires
- Use eye drops when irritation starts or when doing activities that can irritate or dry the eyes eg. watching television, reading, sewing and writing