Red Eye

Red Eye is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Emergency Central

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  • May be caused by almost any eye disorder
  • Often benign; but may represent systemic disease
  • Due to vascular engorgement of conjunctiva
  • Main causes include inflammatory, allergic, infection, or trauma
  • Conjunctivitis is the most common etiology


  • Inflammatory:
    • Uveitis:
      • Anterior and posterior
    • Iritis (perilimbic injection)
    • Episcleritis (70% are idiopathic)
    • Scleritis (50% associated with systemic disease)
    • Systemic inflammatory reactions
  • Allergic:
    • Due to histamine release and increased vascular permeability, resulting in swelling of conjunctiva (chemosis), watery discharge, and pruritus; usually bilateral
  • Infectious:
    • Bacterial (purulent mucous discharge), viral (watery or no discharge), or fungal
    • Orbital cellulitis
    • Dacryocystitis
    • Canaliculitis
    • Endophthalmitis
  • Traumatic:
    • Corneal abrasion
    • Subconjunctival hemorrhage (SCH)
    • Foreign body
    • Occult perforation
  • Other:
    • Pingueculitis and pterygium, hemorrhage, blepharitis, dry eye syndrome, acute angle-closure glaucoma, ophthalmia neonatorum, conjunctival tumor

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