Red (Pink) Eye Not a Simple Irritation
All too often I see patients in my practice who complain of having a red (or pink) eye and have let it go medically untreated for a length of time. They think that the redness is a minor irritation that can easily be resolved with eye drops or compresses. After days of no results, they decide that it is time to get medical attention. This is a dangerous mistake to make, as your eyes are very delicate and need to be treated with the utmost care. These “irritations” can easily effect your cornea, and thus effect your overall vision.
Corneal ulcers (keratitis) can occur when the surface of the cornea has been damaged or compromised by a foreign body (dust, particles, objects, especially contact lenses). These ulcers can also form as a result of severe dry eye syndrome, abrasions, herpes simplex, or various eyelid diseases (chronic blepharitis, entropion, ectropion, trichiasis) that allow bacteria to enter the cornea, causing severe infections and inflammation. Eyelid positioning and eyelash irritation can also contribute to corneal ulcers. Keratitis can be either sterile or infectious.
Soft contact lens wearers have the most increased risk of corneal ulcers. These lenses are designed with high water content which easily absorbs bacteria and other infectious organisms, if not handled, cleaned, and disinfected properly.
Symptoms of corneal ulcers include pain (sometimes severe), blurry vision, sensitivity to light, corneal discharge, tearing, and/or redness. Experiencing any of these symptoms does not mean that you have an ulcer, but if you are experiencing more than one of these symptoms at the same time, it is best to see an ophthalmologist right away. Symptoms and complications are usually more severe the longer the ulcer is allowed to go untreated.
Keratitis can be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist through the use of a slit lamp microscope. Different types of eye drops which contain dye (like fluorescein) can highlight and detect corneal ulcers.
Treating a corneal ulcer depends on its type whether sterile or infectious. Sterile ulcers are generally treated with steroid or anti-inflammatory eye drops and/or antibiotics. These usually subside relatively easily. Infectious ulcers must be treated more aggressively. Steroid eye drops are avoided when treating infectious ulcers, while anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops are used frequently, as often as 15 minutes apart. Frequent visits to your ophthalmologist may be necessary for days, weeks, or months to completely treat the problem.
Always remember that early detection of keratitis can eliminate permanent damage to your eye and helps to reduce the time needed to treat the condition. Never let your redness or irritation go professionally untreated its always best to see your ophthalmologist.