Painful Red Eyes

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Red eyes usually indicate something is wrong with our eyes. In this condition, we notice that our eyes become red. The surface of our eyes looked red because of dilatation or swelling of the blood vessels at the eye. The degree of redness does not tell us how severe the problem is. Signs that point on how serious the conditions are:

  • Blurring of vision
  • Whether there is pain
  • Pain when exposed to light ( photophobia)

Painful red eyes indicates a serious problem that need urgent medical attention. Some of the common causes of painful red eyes are:

  • Corneal ulcers
  • Uveitis
  • Acute glaucoma

Corneal ulcers

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Corneal ulcers are ulcers that occur on the outer layer covering of the eye. Causes of corneal ulcers include:

  • Infections
  • Injury ; due to foreign body in the eye or trauma to the cornea example scratches
  • Dry eyes (very severe)
  • Severe allergic eye disease
  • Prolong contact lens wear especially soft contact lens if worn overnight


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This is the inflammation of the middle layer of the eye called uvea. Causes of uveitis include:

  • Auto-immune disorders example rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infection
  • Exposure to toxins

In some cases the cause is unknown.

Acute glaucoma

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This is a condition where there is a sudden increase in the pressure of the eye. This will cause severe pain , redness and loss of vision. It is a serious condition and a medical emergency. Blindness can happen in a few days if the condition is not treated. Painful red eyes are serious conditions that need to be assessed to determine the cause of the problem. If you experience painful red eyes please seek medical attention immediately. The doctor will examine you and tests will include vision testing. The eye doctor will use a slit lamp to examine your eye. Treatment will be given according to the cause of the problem. Delay in getting medical attention may impair your vision. Early treatment will minimize complications and help save your vision.


Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer : Dr. Nazrila Hairizan bt. Nasir
Accreditor : Dr. Nik Rubiah bte. Nik Abdul Rashid
Reviewer : Dr. Nazhatussima bt. Suhaili