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Red Eyes vs. Dry Eyes by Dr. Tran

Red, dry, itchy eyes can often be waved away as nothing more than a minor symptom of problems like allergies, fatigue or drugs. Many believe that red eyes will always disappear with less dander or smoke in the immediate environment or with more sleep. Many times, this assumption is correct. However, Dr. Johan Tran of Healthy Eye Center, in Huntington Beach, California, cautions: “Although red eyes usually are harmless, in some cases your red, dry eyes may be a sign of a more serious issue, an eye condition called dry eye syndrome. With this condition your eyes will feel chronically dry and uncomfortable, and many times professional help must be sought in order to treat symptoms.”

Dry eye syndrome may be triggered by hormonal changes or illnesses such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The difference between normal red eye and dry eye syndrome can sometimes be difficult to recognize, but educating yourself about this difference can potentially save you a lot of discomfort and pain.

Red Eyes

Dr. Tran explains: “Generally, red eyes are a minor condition and time is all the treatment one needs for the condition to get better. Pet dander, pollen, and other common allergens in a person's vicinity are very common causes of red eyes, as well as eye conditions such as conjunctivitis and side effects from prescription and recreational drugs. These irritants cause blood vessels of the surface tissue of the eye, called the conjunctiva, to dilate. The dilated blood vessels become more visible thus the eye appears to be 'red' or 'bloodshot.'”

Red eyes from allergies or drugs usually go back to normal soon after the allergen is removed or the substance has left the body, while conjunctivitis and similar infections may take as long as a few weeks for your red eyes to clear up.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, unlike normal red eyes, often requires professional assistance, and may cause pain and irritation until help is obtained to address dry eye symptoms. Dry eye syndrome may occur as a result of one of two dysfunctions in a person's eye. Either the eye is not producing a sufficient amount of tears to keep the eye hydrated and comfortable, or the eye is producing enough tears, but the tears that are produced lack one or more essential ingredients. In the second case, 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.

Eye drops called artificial tears are specially formulated to treat dry eye symptoms. These drops imitate the natural tears produced by the eye, and come in a number of variations. Which particular variant of artificial tears will help you depends on the underlying cause of your dry eye syndrome. Some artificial tears are formulated to solve a shortage of real tears if your eyes are not producing enough, while others may aid in adding key elements to your tears that are missing naturally.

Dr. Tran advises: “Knowing which type of artificial tears you need may be difficult, but your optometrist will 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 our eye doctor in Huntington Beach, CA today.