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Eye and Vision Care

Redness of Sclera

07/02/2009

Question:

My son has some redness in a portion of the white of his right eye, but now that redness has spread throughout the entire right eye. The eye dr. can`t see him for a few more days, so I am asking in hopes that I can get a general idea of what might be wrong with his eye.

Answer:

Redness of the eye is an indication of inflammation which may be in response to trauma or infection and should be examined by an eye doctor. However, not all red eyes need to be seen urgently. 

The most common cause for diffuse redness of the eye is conjunctivitis (aka pink eye).  This is caused typically by a viral or bacterial infection. It is typically not an ocular emergency. The eye should not hurt very much, though it may ache. There should not be a drop in acuity or clarity of vision. There may be a pus-like or watery discharge or matting of the eyelashes. Often this may follow a bad cold or flu or after you come in contact with someone else with this condition as it can be very contagious.  Proper hygiene (lots of hand washing and not sharing of towels, pillows, etc. is advised during this time).

If the redness is diffuse and not associated with any significant pain, light sensitivity, or any drop in vision clarity, then waiting a day or two is fine. You should discontinue any contact lens wear until cleared by the eye doctor. 

If the condition shows any of the above signs then you should be seen more quickly by an eye doctor, and if you are clear about the symptoms when you call, they will usually work urgent cases in.

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Response by:

Michael  Earley, OD, PhD, FAAO Michael Earley, OD, PhD, FAAO
Assistant Dean for Clinical Services
Professor of Clinical Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University