Red Eye or Pink Eye

Many medical conditions will cause red eye or pink eye. Red Eye essentially refers to any redness of the eye, from any condition.  Causes of red eye can be infectious, inflammatory, glaucoma, dryness, trauma or other reasons. 

Pink Eye is the common name for viral conjunctivitis, which is a highly contagious viral infection of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the outer, normally transparent covering of the sclera (the white part of the eye). Conjunctivitis refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva for any reason.  The eye appears red or pink when you have conjunctivitis because the blood vessels of the conjunctiva are dilated.


Either a bacterial or a viral infection may cause conjunctivitis.  A simple swab test may be performed in the office to help determine the diagnosis.  Viral conjunctivitis is much more common. It is highly infectious and will keep a person out of school or work for over a week during the infectious phase.  It may last several weeks and is frequently accompanied by a respiratory infection or cold. Antibiotic drops or ointments do not cure it, but symptomatic treatment such as cool compresses or over-the-counter decongestant eyedrops can be used while the infection runs its course.

Unlike viral conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with a variety of antibiotic eyedrops or ointments, which usually cure the infection in a day or two.
Conjunctivitis can be very contagious. People who have it should not share towels or pillowcases and should wash their hands frequently. They may need to stay home from school or work (up to two weeks), and they should stay out of swimming pools.

Not all cases of conjunctivitis are caused by an infection. Allergies can cause conjunctivitis, too. Typically, people with allergic conjunctivitis have itchy eyes, especially in spring and fall. Eyedrops to control itching are used to treat allergic conjunctivitis. It is important not to use medications that contain steroids unless prescribed by Dr. Haas (names of steroids usually end in œ-one or œ-dex).

Finally, not all cases of pink eye are caused by conjunctivitis. Sometimes more serious conditions, such as infections, damage to the cornea, very severe glaucoma, or inflammation inside the eye (iritis or uveitis) will cause the conjunctiva to become inflamed and pink. Vision is usually normal when pink eye is caused by conjunctivitis. If your vision is affected or you experience eye pain, we recommend that you see us right away.

Sub-conjunctival Hemorrhage

A sub-conjunctival hemorrhage is similar to an ordinary bruise except that the bruise is to the eye. It usually appears as a single red spot or many red splotches spread out over the sclera, the white part of the eye.

Sub-Conjunctival Hemorrhage (SCH):  

Seeing a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage on the eye can be alarming, but it is quite common, it is usually harmless, and it will heal on its own. It will not affect your vision and usually will not cause pain.

The most common causes of this condition are sneezing, coughing, straining, or anything that raises the blood pressure in the veins, leading to a small rupture in a blood vessel or capillary. They frequently appear in people who take blood thinners such as aspirin, Coumadin, warfarin, ibuprofen or naproxen.  Other causes include rubbing the eye vigorously or trauma to the eye. Rare causes include blood clots or systemic blood disorders.

If the condition is recurrent or excessive, Dr. Haas may perform a medical workup, assess risk factors, and order laboratory studies.

Even though a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage can seem alarming, treatment is generally not necessary. The blood spot will slowly disappear on its own. If your eye is irritated, Dr. Haas recommends using over-the-counter artificial tears for comfort.