Red Eye- explaining the lingo
A Minor Eye Conditions’ Service (MECS) is a new NHS service that allows local opticians and optometrists to check minor, recent eye problems. You can call in to a MECS if you have a red eye or eyelids, irritated, gritty or uncomfortable eyes, a sticky discharge, a painful eye, issues with eyelashes, recent and sudden loss of vision or a foreign body in the eye. MECS are available in some but not all parts of the UK. It is not suitable for people who are already having eye conditions treated or monitored at the hospital. Ask your local optician if they offer this service.
- Red Eye
Red eye is caused by swollen or dilated blood vessels on the white outer surface of the eye. It has many possible causes. You may also have pain, itching, discharge or visual disturbances. If you are concerned about your red eye, the best first step is to consult your optical practice or failing this seek medical advice. In some areas you can also access a Minor Eye Conditions service at local optical practices free of charge on the NHS.
- Subconjunctival haemorrhage
A bright red painless eye could be a subconjunctival haemorrhage. A tiny blood vessel in the sclera, the white part of your eye may have broken, causing a thin layer of blood to leak out across the sclera, underneath the clear conjunctiva that covers the whole eye. This could have been caused by straining, coughing or injuring your eye. It looks alarming, and can appear worse if you’re taking medication like aspirin or warfarin as these reduce the blood’s ability to clot. It is not usually serious. This type of red eye should clear up on its own within a few weeks as the blood reabsorbs. The blood may change colour as it reabsorbs. If you are concerned about your red eye, the best first step is to consult your optical practice or failing this seek medical advice. In some areas you can also access a Minor Eye Conditions service at local optical practices free of charge on the NHS.
If you wake up with a red, gungy, sticky eye, this may be conjunctivitis, a common infectious eye disease. Bacteria or viruses irritate the conjunctiva, the clear layer that covers the front of your eye. There are different types of conjunctivitis so you should get advice before treatment, from your regular optician, from a Minor Eye Conditions service at your local optical practice or your GP depending on what operates in your area. To find out more about treating conjunctivitis click here.
- Dry Eye
Many people find, particularly as they get older, that their eyes feel dry and irritated. This can be worse on waking or increase as the day goes on. Speak to an optician as there are lots of different ways to improve dry eye. Some optician practices provide specific “dry eye appointments” outside their NHS work. You can read more about dry eye here.
- Acute Onset Glaucoma
If you have a sore red eye, haloes around lights, and your vision isn’t great this could be a sign of acute onset glaucoma, a sudden rise in pressure inside the eye. The pain may be severe enough to make you feel sick or unwell If you have these symptoms you need to visit your local accident and emergency department as soon as possible. You can call NHS 111 for advice or find your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department here.
- Foreign Body
If you get something in your eye this can be known as a foreign body. It may scratch and irritate your eye. It can be very painful. If the pain and irritation persists, seek help as soon as possible, either from a Minor Eye Conditions service at your local optical practice, your GP or the hospital eye emergency service, depending on what operates in your area. You can call NHS 111 for advice too, or find your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department here.
- Eye allergies
Some people find their eyes are itchy at certain times of year, when they go outdoors, and/or when they come into contact with animals. These can all be signs that you have an eye allergy. Look for your local Minor Eye Conditions service, or speak to an optician as they can examine your eyes and advise on treatments for eye allergies.