Conjunctival redness: what causes it (+ symptoms)

Conjunctival redness: what causes it (+ symptoms)
Photo source: Getty images

Redness of the conjunctiva is typical of inflammatory diseases, but can it occur for other reasons?

Redness of the conjunctiva is one of the typical symptoms of conjunctivitis. Are you wondering what other causes may be behind this symptom?

Conjunctivitis, as conjunctivitis is technically known, is one of the most common eye diseases. In addition to redness, it is also characterised by a burning, cutting or itching sensation in the eye.

However, infection is not the only problem. A good and common example is allergy, especially seasonal pollen allergy, which is also known as hay fever.

Of course, we often manage to irritate our eyes even during normal everyday activities.

Among external factors, these include dust, smoke, the influence of volatile substances and household cleaning products. We can also have red eyes after prolonged strain on the eyes by watching television or looking at a computer monitor.

Often you are interested in:
What causes redness of the conjunctiva.
What causes red eyes in children?
How to get rid of this problem and do drops help?

In short about the conjunctiva: What is the conjunctiva and where is it located?

The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that covers the eye and the inside of the eyelids. It forms the conjunctival sac. It is important and significant to the eye for several reasons.

The conjunctiva is a protective and accessory organ of the eye.
It is technically referred to as the tunica conjunctiva.
Other accessory parts are the eyelashes, the orbit, the lacrimal and lacrimal apparatus, and the oculomotor muscles.

Role of the conjunctiva and conjunctival sac:

  • Mechanical
    • covers the eye
    • cleans it
    • defends immunologically, i.e. by the presence of immune cells
  • secretory
    • formation of tears and a protective tear film
    • accumulation of tear film
    • the tear film forms tears
      • is approximately 7 to 8 µm thick
      • wash the eye
      • moisturize
      • cleanses

What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?

Each of us has certainly experienced at least one of the symptoms listed. It is not a pleasant thing. Sometimes it is a flash issue that quickly sets in and also subsides.

However, if the trouble lasts for a long time and does not go away or even gets worse, it is necessary to seek professional help. After all, it is about the eye and vision.

Subjective symptoms that may accompany redness of the eye, conjunctiva:

  • pain in the eye
  • burning
  • cutting, stinging
  • itching
  • sensation of a foreign body in the eye
  • feeling of sand in the eye, under the eyelid
  • discomfort, discomfort that cannot be described
  • blurred vision
  • impaired vision
  • photophobia, i.e. increased sensitivity to light

In addition to these subjective problems, it is also possible to see objective manifestations.

Subjective = felt by the sufferer but not visible.
Objective = can be observed from the outside, they are observable.

Objective symptoms:

  • increased tearing
  • hyperaemia - increased blood flow and therefore redness and prominence of blood vessels
  • chemosis - swelling of the conjunctiva
  • suffusion - blood bruising
  • pigmentation - colour changes
  • discharge, which may also be purulent yellow, white, grey or pale
  • dried yellow drowsiness, especially after night and waking up
  • membranes and pseudomembranes - coating of the eye
  • ulcerations, boils, scars
  • swelling of the eyelid
  • enlargement of regional lymph nodes

What are the most common causes of redness of the conjunctiva - eye?

Redness is characteristic of inflammatory diseases of the conjunctiva. But the problem does not end here and there may be more causes.

Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva) as a cause of infection?

Infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites are common.

The most common are viral, which are followed by bacterial infections.

Conjunctivitis = conjunctivitis = conjunctivitis.
In English pink eye.

Viral diseases usually run in conjunction with an upper respiratory tract infection such as the common cold or flu.

In addition to general weakness, fatigue, increased nasal secretion and congestion, inflammation and redness of the conjunctivae are also associated.

Bacterial occur as a result of an overgrowth of the normal bacterial colonization of the skin and eye area. This happens when bacteria are introduced into the eye and conjunctival area by unwashed hands or when the immunity is weakened.

Infections in young children are therefore very common, especially in the collective.

Yes, conjunctivitis is partially transmissible. Therefore, a child with this condition should stay at home, separated from the collective.

The table lists some infectious causes

Bacterial conjunctivitis
  • + blepharoconjunctivitis, with inflammation of the eyelid
  • purulent discharge
  • burning and cutting of the eye
  • moves from one eye to the other within a few days
Bacterial keratoconjunctivitis
  • inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva
  • purulent discharge
  • pain, cutting and burning
  • sensitivity to light
  • rapid onset
  • within days in both eyes
Adenoviral form
  • watery secretion
  • burning and cutting
  • rapid and bilateral onset
Herpesvirus form
  • presence of small blisters, as in herpes - a cold sore on the mouth
  • cutting
  • Tearing
  • light-headedness
  • unilateral inflammation
Chlamydial keratoconjunctivitis
  • usually as a chronic bilateral course

Non-infectious causes of conjunctivitis

The main representative in this group is catarrhal and allergic conjunctivitis.

Under the catarrhal form are also included the aforementioned infectious forms, but also these non-infectious.

A possible trigger for conjunctival redness is an uncorrected refractive error. What does this mean? If you suffer from myopia or hyperopia and do not correct it, do not wear glasses or contact lenses.

This is a common internal cause. In addition, it can happen for various general diseases. An example is rheumatism.

Examples from the external environment include dust, smoke (cigarettes), draughts, wind, air conditioning, other physical causes, but also chemical and volatile substances. These can also be encountered in the home in the form of cleaning products.

Even the familiar act of slicing onions can irritate our eyes.

Allergies are triggered by an allergen, i.e. a substance to which our body reacts excessively and inadequately. This allergen can be a drug, pollen, dust, fur, mites, food and so on.

Redness can also accompany atopic dermatitis, i.e. atopic eczema.

Other causes of conjunctival redness, red eye

On the surface of the eye, there is a conjunctival membrane which is well vascularized. In case of any problem, the vascular filling increases and with this increased blood supply, redness sets in.

The vascular pattern is accentuated and well defined.

In conjunctival vascularisation, a superficial and deep injection can be distinguished. In the superficial form, one can observe the mobility of the vessels with the movement of the eye. In the deep form, on the other hand, this movement is absent. A mixed type also occurs.

Conjunctival injection - so-called spraying = redness.
Hyperemia = i.e. increased blood supply.

Other causes of redness in the table

Injury to the eye
  • by type and extent of injury
  • Redness to blood bruising - suffusion
  • foreign body in the eye
    • cutting, pain and perception of a foreign body in the eye
Allergic form
  • itching is typical
  • seasonal occurrence in hay fever
  • Tearing
  • rhinitis
  • sneezing
  • bilateral discomfort
  • inflammation of the iris, the central part of the eye
  • pain
  • photophobia
  • impaired vision and blurred vision
  • inflammation of the eyeball, sclera
  • redness
  • pain
  • feeling of pressure
  • tearing
  • mostly unilateral
Dry eye syndrome
  • eye washing disorder and tear film defect
  • dry eye and foreign object sensation, as if sand in the eyes
  • eye pain, burning, itching, scratching, pressure
  • increased sensitivity to light, painful perception of light
  • staying in a dusty, smoky or air-conditioned area is a problem
  • eye fatigue and feeling of heavy eyes
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • redness due to increased blood supply to the conjunctiva
  • excessive tearing, in some cases
  • blurred and hazy vision
Read more in the article:
Dry eye syndrome: burning and tired eyes? Can dry eye drops cure dry eye?
  • Rarer problems that may accompany other diseases
  • Keratoconjunctivitis e rosacea - a chronic disease mainly of the middle-aged and elderly
  • Keratoconjunctivitis limbalis superior - a rare disease affecting adult women
  • Atopic keratoconjunctivitis - in atopic dermatitis
  • Gigantopapillary conjunctivitis - mainly when wearing contact lenses
  • Ocular cicatricial pemphigoid - autoimmune disease - chronic inflammation creates scarring
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome - acute inflammation of the skin of children and young adults
  • Familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome - hypersensitivity to cold with general symptoms
  • diphtheria
  • measles
  • influenza
  • tumours, neoplasms and degenerative changes (pinguecula, pterygium, pseudopterygium)

Diagnosis and treatment in brief

Some problems come on suddenly and go away just as quickly. But what if they persist or recur? In this case, professional examination and treatment are necessary.

The eye as a sensory organ and our vision can be compromised by several causes. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish the underlying problem. Afterwards, adequate treatment can be initiated.

A general practitioner may be sufficient in the first instance. However, an ophthalmologist is the specialist.

He performs examinations such as taking a medical history. This includes finding out the problems and details regarding their onset and course. It is followed by an examination of the anterior segment of the eye, the everza, i.e. the eyelid overturn.

If necessary, a swab of the eyelid is added to identify the causative agent of the inflammation and blood draws or allergy tests.

Sometimes conjunctivitis is mild and subsides without treatment.

Treatment is directly related to the disease. If the cause is bacterial, antibiotics are the treatment of choice. If it is viral, they do not work.

Dry eye syndrome is solved by tear replacement and moisturizing the eye. In case of allergy, antihistamines and corticosteroids are used. Possibly other drugs depending on the identified cause.

Medications are in the form of drops, gels and ointments.

It is important to protect the eyes and eyes, to prevent

Prevention is important in protecting the eyes. This should include several principles.

Prevention is important:

  • regular hand washing with soap and water
  • not touching the eyes with dirty hands
  • not to use other people's towels, even in the home for each member to have their own face towel
  • your own drops
  • own make-up
  • care of contact lenses
  • use of sunglasses when outdoors, in the sun, in the wind
  • fluid intake
  • vitamins (especially A) and multiminerals are advisable
  • protective equipment in hazardous jobs and activities
  • sick and infected people and children should remain isolated at home for the duration of the illness
  • vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae, Pneumococcus and Neisseria meningitidis
fshare on Facebook

Interesting resources

The aim of the portal and content is not to replace professional examination. The content is for informational and non-binding purposes only, not advisory. In case of health problems, we recommend seeking professional help, visiting or contacting a doctor or pharmacist.