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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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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Red Eye." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307317/all/Red_Eye.
Red Eye. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307317/all/Red_Eye. Accessed April 25, 2019.
Red Eye. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307317/all/Red_Eye
Red Eye [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 25]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307317/all/Red_Eye.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Red Eye ID - 307317 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307317/all/Red_Eye PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -