Your Eyes Are the Windows to Your Health

Do you ever look in the mirror and see that your eyes are red? Or droopy? Or extra crusty?

Sometimes a cold compress and a trip to the drugstore are all you need. Other times, it's a good idea to see your doctor.

How can you tell the difference? A sneak peek at some common conditions will help you know if it’s something minor or worth a second look.

Redness

“I think the most common eye problem people experience is a red eye,” says Rebecca J. Taylor, MD, an ophthalmologist in Nashville. “A red eye with a blotch of blood on the white part of the eye may look really scary, but it’s usually just a bruise under the surface of the eye. We call it a subconjunctival hemorrhage." It should clear up in a few weeks, she says.

If both eyes are red, itchy, and watery, that could just be allergies, Taylor says. These symptoms, are usually caused by environmental (seasonal) allergies, but they could mean you’re allergic to a product you used. Over-the-counter tears will help with moisture, and antihistamine eye drops should stop the itch. Call your doctor if you aren’t better in 10 days.

Pinkeye

Your doctor may call this acute conjunctivitis. It's itchy and red, and it oozes a white or yellow discharge. “Typically it is viral and lasts a week to 10 days. It can start in one eye and go to the other eye. A runny nose and cold symptoms are also very common,” Taylor says.

If you think you have it, call your doctor to be sure. It can be very contagious, so wash your hands a lot and don’t share towels or washcloths. Some conditions, like dry eye disease or an eye infection, look a lot like pinkeye. Your doctor will know the difference and how to treat it.

Dry Eye

Blame this common problem on your environment, hormonal changes, or your daily routine. “People who stare at the computer, cell phones, books, or the TV for long periods of time may be very uncomfortable toward the end of day, because they are not blinking enough,” Taylor says.

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