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Posted on 06-13-2016

Seeing Red: Causes of a Partially Red Eye

If you have ever stayed up all night studying, overdone it at a party or experienced acute eye irritation and dryness, you have probably experienced some degree of reddening in the eye before. But what does it mean when you notice that one side of the sclera (the white of the eye) is bright red or pink while the other side is still its normal color? These odd symptoms can alarm you if you have never encountered it before. Fortunately, most causes are nothing to worry about, but you need to know when to relax and when to consult our skilled team at Silicon Valley Eye Physicians.Woman i n Sunnyvale feeling good after healing from conjunctivitis

There are many conditions that can produce a general uniform redness or pinkness across the normally white part of the eye, notably dry eye syndrome and the various forms of conjunctivitis (pink eye). But a zone of redness that afflicts only one part of the eye, such as the area near the inner or outer corner, generally stems from a precise local cause. The most common such cause is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This occurs when one of the tiny blood vessels in the inner or outer corner of the eye breaks. Since the blood vessels tend to be fragile, sudden changes in pressure can cause them to tear and leak blood onto the sclera. The sclera is covered by a thin membrane called the conjunctiva, so the pooled blood remains trapped there until the conjunctiva can absorb it -- a process that may take a week or two. A subconjunctival hemorrhage may be brought on by:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Extreme physical strain 
  • Vomiting
  • Eye trauma from rubbing, injuries or foreign bodies in the eye

Other eye conditions can also produce the "red on one side" effect. One example is episcleritis, the inflammation of a thin membrane that sits on the sclera just underneath the conjunctiva. This discoloration produced by this condition usually extends to a limited area. Allergic reactions or foreign bodies in the eye are another potential cause of limited or partial eye redness.

Seeking Treatment for Eye Redness In Sunnyvale or Santa Clara, CA

Although subconjunctival hemorrhages resolve themselves over time, you should visit our eye clinic in Sunnyvale, CA for an examination just in case there is something else going on, such as an infection or injury that requires treatment. We can make sure your eyes clear up safely, contact us at 408-703-5929 to visit our Sunnyvale or Santa Clara offices or for a convenient visit online!

Did you recently overexert yourself in any way that might have left you with a subconjunctival hemorrhage, such as constant violent sneezing or coughing from a recent illness? Tell us your story!

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