Red eye sufferers, unite! A look at causes, solutions

Caroline Bundrick


Red eye sufferers, unite! A look at causes, solutions

"My eyes are always red!" is a common complaint we hear from our patients. There are countless causative factors that can cause chronic red eyes.

We all have blood vessels running through the white sclera of our eyes and the overlying clear conjunctiva. These blood vessels feed the eyes with necessary nutrients.

The eyes look red when these blood vessels dilate and engorge, and any irritation to the eye can cause this cascade of events.

The most common causes of red eye are dryness and allergies. However, there can be other conditions such as a corneal abrasion or infection, or idiopathic inflammation, similar to that seen in autoimmune diseases, which result in the eye's reddish appearance.

So how do we get them to look nice and white again? That is one of the biggest concerns for our patients.

Many people have stigmas related to red eyes, believing it indicates drug use or lack of sleep. For professionals, this can pose a problem.

The right way to decrease redness is to solve the causative factor, but this is often very difficult to do. Dry eye syndrome is definitely a chronic condition, and many of us cannot control exposure to certain allergens, especially those that are airborne.

Up to this point, the only over-the-counter drops for red eye are drops that might help the redness, but also have a propensity for resulting in rebound redness after you've used them.

We always tell our patients to stay away from Visine, ClearEyes and the like, which claim to get the red out. Besides rebound redness, some of the medications in these drops also can cause the pupil to dilate when used enough.

Bausch + Lomb recently announced their work on a new, over-the-counter eye drop called Luminesse. The drop is a diluted version of a glaucoma medication called Brimonidine.

The concentration Brimonidine in the drop is too low to affect the eye pressure. Brimonidine does cause blood vessels to constrict, and does not have the same rebound effect that the other drops have.

In accordance with the Food and Drug Administration approval process, the date that the manufacturer can begin marketing has been set for the end of December.

Although there is hope, I will reaffirm that drops such as these are only a temporary fix for a wound that has not healed. The underlying cause still needs to be addressed by an eye care practitioner.

Still, Luminesse might be a good solution for the morning of a stressful interview after tossing and turning all night.

Caroline Bundrick, O.D. is an optometrist practicing at Darling Eye Center, with offices in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.