Ophthalmology: The painful red eye
- By: Sophia Pathai, Andrew McNaught
A painful red eye can be the presenting problem for a large number of eye conditions, spanning a wide range of complaints from the fairly trivial to diseases that threaten sight. Although common, not all cases of red eye are attributable to conjunctivitis; take time to get a good history, and perform a thorough examination. You will then be able to judge the severity of the condition and the urgency and need for specialist referral.
Knowing when symptoms started and how quickly they have progressed is useful. Important symptoms to ask about when thinking of conditions affecting the anterior segment (the structures from the conjunctiva to the lens) include pain, photophobia, and reduced vision. When asking about photophobia, find out if light makes the eye feel painful or just uncomfortable. Reduced vision may be described as blurring; find out if this clears with blinking. Also ask about any discharge and