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Red Eyes V. Dry Eyes: What You Need To Know

dry 20red 20itchy 20eyeRed eye and dry eye syndrome can look very similar, and are, therefore, quite easily confused. With both conditions, you may experience itchy, red and dry-feeling eyes. Dry eye syndrome can often be similar enough to simple red eye, that a person may think that their red, dry, itchy eyes are nothing more than something minor, such as allergies, and may go a long time with the severe discomfort that comes with dry eye syndrome. However, in the case of dry eyes, regardless of what measures are taken, the condition will not change significantly and an eye care professional should be consulted to discover the cause and bring relief to the dry eye sufferer. Fortunately, Dr. Steven Rosen, of Rosen Optometry in St. Louis, Missouri, is a leading expert in dry eye syndrome. Dr. Rosen has compiled some points of difference between red eyes and dry eye syndrome below, which help him differentiate between common red eye and dry, and diagnose the type of dry eye you have, if necessary, and treat it properly.

Red Eyes

Red eyes do not generally represent as large an issue as dry eye syndrome and, in general, you shouldn't worry too much about them. Most of the time red eyes are caused by allergens, such as pollen, or irritants such as smoke or dust, in the atmosphere. These irritants cause small blood vessels throughout your eyes to become inflamed and enlarged, becoming much more visible and turning your eyes a reddish hue. This is where the term “red eye” comes from.

The vast majority of times, red eye will heal up and return to normal without any need to seek medical attention. A note of caution, however should be considered: The great number of conditions that can cause dry eyes makes it very hard to know exactly what the cause may be. Therefore, if your red eyes are accompanied by a high fever, headache and/or a great deal of eye pain, please go to the doctor immediately. Besides this cautionary note, however, red eyes are almost always minor and should not cause anxiety unless accompanied by these additional symptoms.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Doctors generally discuss two broad causes for dry eye syndrome. Either:

  • The eyes don't make enough tears, and the eye cannot be comfortably hydrated


  • The eye produces tears which are flawed. They often lack one or more essential parts normally included in tears to allow them to properly coat and hydrate the eye.

Dry Eye Treatment

The most common treatment is a type of specialty eye drops called “artificial tears.” These special eye drops combat the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye syndrome by imitating real tears as closely as possible. In order to do this in the best way possible, there are many different formulations of artificial tears. Each formulation addresses a different underlying cause of your dry eye. Dr. Rosen specifically recommends either Oasis Tears or FreshKote Restasis, as he often sees that these brands help his patients a great deal in combatting dry eye symptoms.

Dr. Rosen is also able to detect your risk for dry eye syndrome by measuring the salt content of your tears with a cutting-edge technology known as TearLab. For more information about dry eyes, come visit Rosen Optometry today.

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